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Eagle River Native Serves with High-Tech U.S. Navy Helicopter Squadron

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SAN DIEGO – Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua Wood, a native of Eagle River, Alaska, credits the long list of military service in his family, the need for a trade job and college benefits as the reason he joined the U.S. Navy.

Now, eight years later, Wood serves with the Raptors of Helicopter Maritime Squadron (HSM) 71, working with one of the Navy’s most advanced helicopters at Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego.

“Our squadron has got its fast paces and its easy days,” Wood said. “Some days you’re putting your nose to the grinder and some days you feel it’s the best job in the world.”

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Wood, a 2010 graduate of Eagle River High School, is an aviation electrician’s mate with HSM 71, a versatile squadron that’s capable of completing a number of important missions for the Navy with the MH-60R “Seahawk” helicopter.

“Currently I’m the work center maintenance supervisor,” Wood said. “I ensure that all maintenance priorities for the day get delivered to the personnel and all our work orders get done in a timely manner.”

Wood credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned in Eagle River.

“I leanred to never do anything half way and always take pride in the quality of your work,” Wood said. “Also to never ask anybody to do something you’re not comfortable doing yourself.”

HSM 71’s primary mission is to conduct sea control operations in open-ocean and coastal environments as an expeditionary unit. This includes hunting for submarines, searching for surface targets over the horizon and conducting search and rescue operations.

According to Navy officials, the MH-60R is the Navy’s new primary maritime dominance helicopter. Greatly enhanced over its predecessors, the MH-60R helicopter features a glass cockpit and significant mission system improvements, which give it unmatched capability as an airborne multi-mission naval platform.

As the U.S. Navy’s next generation submarine hunter and anti-surface warfare helicopter, the MH-60R “Romeo” is the cornerstone of the Navy’s Helicopter Concept of Operations. Anti-submarine warfare and surface warfare are the MH-60R’s primary missions. Secondary missions include search and rescue, medical evacuation, vertical replenishment, naval surface fire support, communications relay, command, control, communications, command and control warfare and non-combat operations.

“Our aircraft are unique for its anti-submarine capabilites,” Wood said. “Its primary mission is to find, track and destroy enemy submarines. It also does surfarce warfare and search and rescue missions.”

Serving in the Navy means Wood is part of a world that is taking on new importance in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.

A key element of the Navy the nation needs is tied to the fact that America is a maritime nation, and that the nation’s prosperity is tied to the ability to operate freely on the world’s oceans. More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water; 80 percent of the world’s population lives close to a coast; and 90 percent of all global trade by volume travels by sea.

“Our priorities center on people, capabilities and processes, and will be achieved by our focus on speed, value, results and partnerships,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “Readiness, lethality and modernization are the requirements driving these priorities.”

Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community, and career, Wood is most proud of partaking in the centuries old tradition of the crossing-the-line ceremony and becoming a ‘shellback.’

“It’s not something that you can really do on the civilian side,” Wood said. “Even in the Navy, not everybody gets to say they’ve done that.”

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Wood and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes contributing to the Navy the nation needs.

“There’s a lot of trust when you’re out to sea,” Wood said. “You’re putting your life in the hands of people you may never meet. It takes a lot of trust to even go on deployment.”

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