In the Navy: Helos

Navy helicopters do everything from saving lives to firing missiles

NORFOLK, Va. – There’s more to Naval Station Norfolk than ships and planes. The Navy also has helicopters, or “helos” in Navy terms. Depending upon the need, these birds go from saving people in weather emergencies to firing missiles at the enemy.

The MH-60 Sierras are the Navy’s version of the Army Blackhawk.

“We dabble in a little bit of everything,” helo pilot Maria Sabatino said

Sabatino is one of three women among about 45 pilots in the Norfolk-based Dragon Whales squadron.

“It is absolutely exciting. There's a lot of power behind these aircraft and what goes into them,” she said.

10 News had the chance to experience that power firsthand… When we lifted off for an aerial tour of Norfolk. During the ride, there was plenty of time to think about the helo’s many missions.

Sabatino explained the types of missions their training encompasses. “Should one of our folks be trapped behind enemy lines, separated from friendlies, we have our maritime interdiction operation,” Sabatino said.

Often, she said, they transport special-forces like the SEAL Team Six.

Another recent assignment was in Texas where the squadron rescued over 200 people from Hurricane Harvey, plus eight dogs.

All of the missions are dangerous for one reason or another. Sometimes the job is to take it to the enemy. One of the helicopters was being prepped for deployment in a war zone.

“That white box that's on there right now they're checking release in control. So when the missile’s on there, they press the button -- a little explosive goes and shoots to rocket out, said ATCS Ronald Partain, a maintenance senior chief.

And then there’s maintenance, always maintenance. Five to six hours for every hour of flight.

"This thing has a lot of moving parts. So every hour that this thing flies we have special inspections that we have to do,” Partain said.

All those moving parts make for a very effective platform for combat or rescue, flying not only from carriers, but also smaller amphibious ships as well.

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