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PCHS graduate embarks on career as a naval officer

Park City High School graduate Shelby Johnstun attended the Navy’s Officer Candidate School in Rhode Island this fall. She hopes to eventually become a naval pilot.
Photo by Darwin Lam

Park City High School alumna Shelby Johnstun never envisioned joining the Navy as a child. She said she always had immense gratitude for those who serve and looked up to women in uniform, but never saw herself as one of them.

But one day during her junior year at the University of Utah, Johnstun spoke to someone who was in the Navy. Little did she know that the next day she would meet with a Navy recruiter and find a new future.

Johnstun is now embarking on a career as an officer in the Navy. As she reflects upon her training, she said that the skills she’s developed have not only come from her training but her upbringing in Park City.



“My parents definitely taught me to be humble and kind and caring and respectful and responsible,” Johnstun said.

And Johnstun has tried to use those traits to her advantage. After graduating from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree in athletic training and attending Navy boot camp, Johnstun has been training in the Navy’s Officer Candidate School in Rhode Island.



Officer Candidate School is a unique and grueling training program. It requires participants to have already completed a college degree and provides the training to become a junior officer. The 13-week program puts students through a rigorous course covering all aspects required to be a skillful leader like leadership, the profession of arms, academics and fitness.

Becoming a naval officer is not easy. Once Johnstun is an officer, she will be expected to be a manager on top of being a pilot in the Navy. This position is not an easy task, but with her training, Johnstun said she will have the skills to succeed.

With her degree in hand, Johnstun enlisted in the Navy and completed the eight-week boot camp. She established the rigorous academic and physical foundation that she would add upon at Officer Candidate School. She said the experience of boot camp was humbling and a time when she started to become the leader she aspired to be.

Johnstun is now in her final weeks at Officer Candidate School, which has been the most grueling part of her training. The academic and physical demands have been raised, along with the characteristics required to succeed.

“There’s been times where your body wants to give up and you’re tired and there’s long days, but I think pushing through that has been the more difficult thing about coming here,” she said. “But it’s very rewarding when you push through and you reach that goal.”

Leadership and education are two values that Johnstun holds dear. Being an officer would require those two values to be stretched to their limits, she said. But for Johnstun, it’s what she wants to do.

“I think it’s the greatest position to have in the Navy as a leader,” she said. “You have more opportunities to help teach the enlisted side and accomplish the mission.”

As she approached the final weeks of the program, Johnstun found that her upbringing in Park City was formative. She graduated from Park City High School after playing in three competitive sports: volleyball, softball and soccer. There, she said she learned what it takes to be a successful leader. Park City’s environment shaped her passion for leadership and her love of the outdoors.

“Along the lines of (Park City) being outdoors and a lot of activity,” said Johnstun, “I think that really shaped me as wanting to make sure that I’m staying physically active.”

Johnstun did not have family members in the military. Joining the Navy created a new legacy for herself and others.

“I think my family is definitely going to be able to tell a difference between before and after,” she said.

Johnstun had completed her 13th week at Officer Candidate School, and now she is looking to the future. Once she graduates, she will be heading to Pensacola, Florida, to begin her flight training to become a pilot. She will then fly with the Navy for the next eight years.

“I’m very excited,” she said. “… Something that I really enjoyed about my undergrad was that it wasn’t just sitting in a classroom. We did a lot of hands-on learning and I think that as a pilot, there’s obviously going to be a lot of hands-on learning”

Johnstun hopes to serve at least 20 years in the Navy and to retire in the Navy as well. She hopes to use her love of education and her leadership skills to help teach others.

“I think leadership is a lot more important to me now than before,” Johnstun said. “It’s always been in the back of my mind and been important, but now I think it’s the most important aspect for me in the Navy is making sure I’m a good leader and able to help those around me to perform at their best ability.”


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