SEAPOWER / APRIL 2015 96
“The diversity of the missions that we do, everything from protection to
logistics to helping others on their worst day, you’re doing one thing one day
and then, the next day, you’re doing a whole different mission.”
I’m from Portland, Ore., and was an active member of the Boy Scouts of
America. I was also a part of Mult-nomah County Search and Rescue, a
volunteer force through the Multno-mah County Sheriff’s Office that serves
mostly the northwest part of Oregon.
It was all backpacking and hiking.
I wasn’t really looking to go to college right away. I joined the Navy as a
way to see the world. I chose rescue
swimmer because of the search-and-rescue aspect and I was really involved
with that outside the Navy. It also gave
me the opportunity to help and serve
others, which is something I was really aiming for when I was looking at jobs in the military. I
also thought it would be kind of cool to be a flyer.
I’ve been in the Navy just over eight years. After
boot camp, I went to Pensacola, Fla., where I completed Naval Aircrew Candidate School, Aviation Rescue
Swimmer School and the AW [Naval Aircrewman] “A”
School. In San Diego, I completed SERE [Survival,
Evasion, Resistance and Escape] School and then the
Fleet Replacement Squadron. My first assignment was
a rescue swimmer with Helicopter Sea Combat
Squadron 25 [HSC- 25], the search-and-rescue [SAR]
unit in Guam, for more than five years.
We got called out a lot. Sometimes we were out training
for a mission when, all of a sudden, we needed to actually
execute the mission. One time, when we were practicing
putting out fires with “Bambi” buckets, we looked over
and saw a hillside fire encroaching on two Air Force radar
domes. So we put our training into real-life application.
I deployed three times, once on the dry
cargo/ammunition ship USNS Carl Brashear and twice
to Iraq and Kuwait with the 2515th Naval Air
We were strictly a MEDEVAC unit, but SAR-capable
if they needed us to go out to the North Arabian Gulf.
For the most part, we served the
Army, Air Force, Marine Corps,
Navy and coalition forces in Kuwait
and the southern Iraqi province.
On one mission we launched in
response to a vehicle rollover that
injured three people. We were able
to get them to advance medical care.
Doing the job we’ve been trained to
do, helping somebody on possibly
the worst day of their life, that’s
what we were doing at the 2515th. It
was very rewarding.
Now I’m a Seahawk Weapons and
Tactics Instructor at HSC- 2, the East
Coast fleet replacement squadron.
We teach all the new aircrewmen coming to the fleet
how to perform their duties inside the aircraft. I’m
their standardization coordinator for tactical training:
knowing the guns, the different mission sets, how to
use the helicopter in and out of a combat environment.
Flying is definitely a plus. The diversity of the missions that we do, everything from protection to logistics to helping others on their worst day, you’re doing
one thing one day and then, the next day, you’re doing
a whole different mission. You’re also constantly training, constantly learning, because with that broad mission set comes the challenge of making sure you’re
staying up to date.
Perseverance is valued in my work. Not letting the
crew down. Not being that weak link. A quote that I like
is, ‘Know when to follow, Know when to lead.’ As a leader,
you’ve got to be a follower as well at some point.
Being a crewman and knowing my job gives us the
capability of doing whatever a helicopter is tasked to
do. For the Navy, we provide logistics support, MEDEVAC capability and SAR capability. If we have to go
into humanitarian assistance or disaster relief — like
in Haiti — we’re able to do anything that we’re asked
to do. ;
Naval Air Crewman (Helicopter)
1st Class Joel James
Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Two
IN MY OWN WORDS