'Sea Knights' Helo Pilots Inspire Aviation Students at Local College

Story Number: NNS191126-04Release Date: 11/26/2019 8:15:00 AM
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From Commander, Naval Air Forces Atlantic Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Virginia (NNS) -- A tablet, an intermittent cellphone hotspot and an active military aircraft hangar – just another day for Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22 and the U.S. Navy’s dedicated outreach program.

During a Nov. 20 video conference call with Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City, Missouri, four members of the “Sea Knights” of HSC-22 sat around a small table with a nine-inch tablet as mechanics worked less than five feet away in the hangar.  This may have not been the perfect environment for a “question and answer” event, but that didn’t stop LT j.g. Thomas Sandford and his team of aviation experts from connecting with a classroom half way across the country.

“This was a fantastic, unique opportunity to be able to speak with students who may not really get the chance to experience naval aviation,” said Sandford, a Navy pilot.  “We were excited to be able to speak with them about what it is we do every day.”  

Flanking Sandford and the small tablet were Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jimmy Newton, Aviation Electrician’s Mate 1st Class Devin Layser and Aviation Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Dean Devries. Each Sailor took turns answering questions from students and describing a normal workday.

Along with questions about the Sailors’ daily routine and future aspirations, the students also wanted to know what the Sailors enjoyed most about the military and working in aviation.

“The best part of my job is teaching and training other people,” said Newton.  “I want them to have that ‘aha’ moment.”

With nearly 30 years of naval aviation experience, Newton said it takes “a calm mind, smart head and focus to work on helicopters.”

As much as both the students and Sailors enjoyed this opportunity, it was an embark in September of this year aboard nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) that set the wheels in motion for the event. 

“Getting the chance to see an aircraft carrier in action was one of the most powerful experiences of my life,” said Shonda Atwater, the Apprentice Program director at the Metropolitan Community College, located in Kansas City, Missouri.  “When I saw parts produced in Kansas City being unboxed on the ship, it went full circle for me. The machining and manufacturing skills we are teaching our students are vital beyond our city. I just knew I needed to find a way to merge the human element with the parts produced in our region.”

Nearly 40 students joined Atwater during the video conference. She said the entire conversation was very interesting and student were engaged; even after the call concluded. 

HSC-22 is an Expeditionary helicopter squadron located at Chambers Field in Norfolk, Virginia. The squadron was established on September 29, 2006, and has many different missions, including vertical replenishment, search and rescue, special forces insertion and extraction, and anti-surface warfare.

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