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How a Navy helicopter squadron stays mission-ready: 'People go home because we do our job'

'It’s the people. It's absolutely what makes this job worthwhile.'
Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 11
Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 11
Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 11
Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 11
Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 11
Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 11
Posted at 12:08 AM, May 28, 2023

NORFOLK, Va. — In the Navy, everyone has a role, and some Sailors are called to the cockpit.

“I grew up wanting to be a pilot, that was kind of the dream job,” said John Bice, Operations Officer at Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 11. “I think it's the most interesting job in the world."

John Bice, who is known by the call sign "Brother," is the operations officer at Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 11.

john bice Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 11
John Bice, Operations Officer at Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 11

HSC-11 has about 25 pilots and they're who you want to see if you're in trouble.

Among a variety of missions, the squadron operates search and rescue, combat support, medical evacuations, and disaster relief.

“The fact that our primary mission is rescuing people is pretty motivating. I enjoy the fact that people get to go home and see their family at the end of the day because we do our job,” he said.

While the job is rewarding, it is not easy.

Everyone, from the pilots who are flying to the maintainers who are getting the aircraft ready for flight, needs to be highly trained.

“[The maintainers] take a lot of pride in their job because they know the person that's going to go fly it and then [we, as pilots] take a lot of pride in our job because we know the guys who are going to fix it,” said Bice.

WTKR anchor Erin Miller spent a rainy and cold day on the flightline with Bice and the crew. He said overcast days are just as important for training purposes as sunny days.

Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 11
Erin with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 11

"From a training perspective, days like this are actually really good for us -- in that I can take a crew out who does not get a lot of instrument time and then we get into the weather [and we] can't see the ground and we're just flying off instruments for a few hours,” he said.

To help the pilots get some training hours in, Erin was invited for a flight alongside photojournalist David Agudelo.

Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 11
Erin and David on a flight with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 11

Their birds-eye view over Hampton Roads gave new meaning to seeing Navy operations from a new perspective.

Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 11

In between the training and maintenance, there’s a lot of camaraderie.

Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 11

The Sailors in HSC-11 exemplify that the Navy is more than just high-stress situations and deployments.

“It’s the people. It's absolutely what makes this job worthwhile,” Bice said.

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