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RADM Gary R. Jones, USN (Ret.)
The Naval Helicopter Association is the rotary wing communities’ professional society. As a JO in my first Fleet Squadron, my wise XO imparted some sage insight that stuck with me for the next 30+ years of flying, driving ships, tours in the Pentagon, and assignments overseas. It was simple, but spot-on guidance. He stated that striving to be a professional aviator required professionalism in and out of the cockpit. Being a professional required a commitment to being proficient and skilled at every aspect of your chosen profession. He went on to share that for Naval Aviators, it meant not only being skilled in the air and knowing warfighting procedures, but also being professional while on the ground/in whatever squadron job or assignment assigned. That to me is where NHA fit into my career as a professional. NHA is the professional organization and open forum for the rotary wing community in Naval Aviation. It is why I joined NHA as a young JO, and have remained a member ever since. NHA afforded me a venue where professional ideas, opinions, topics were shared and examined…and debated. In and out of the cockpit, NHA aided me in growing as a professional. Upon retirement and entry into commercial business, I was struck by the number of and commitment to the numerous professional societies in industry and business. I quickly learned that if I was to become relevant in and better understand my industry, I had to join (and becomes an active participant in) those pertinent professional societies. Bottom line: NHA is where professional rotary wing aviators amass to share best practices, grow as professionals, and engage in networking opportunities that make the rotary wing community a vibrant, dynamic force in the maritime domain. As a professional, I am a member of and strong believer in NHA !!
RDML Dean Peters, USN
One great thing about NHA is that it provides you with both a sitrep on where you are in your career (real-time) and a lens to where you can expect to be in the future. Whether flying fleet helicopters for the first time at the NHA fly-in, reading about sister squadrons and detachments returning from sea in Rotor Review, learning about the next great technology at a Symposium, or just getting together for a beer on a Friday afternoon, NHA is the backbone of the helo community. Another great thing about NHA- and what makes it particularly compelling- is that NHA is a guiding organization where the vectors and corrections can come from all levels of the community, junior and senior. At the 1990 Symposium in San Diego, the leadership had determined that the prescribed uniform would be service khakis. The pullover sweater was allowed, but leather flight jackets were prohibited (and it was an unusually cold spring in San Diego). The backlash from the JO’s was forceful and immediate. The following year in Virginia Beach there were some admins where specific groups tried to behave like their air wing counterparts at Tail Hook. The more senior rotor heads let everyone know that this was “not who we are”. There are many more examples, but suffice it to say that NHA provides a forum to keep the community focused and evolving, both personally and professionally. A hearty BZ to all NHA members community wide.
CAPT Mike "Babe" Ruth, USN
When I think about my relationship over the years with NHA, the first thing that comes to mind is how proud I am to be part of this elite club. We are the premier...the best, maritime helicopter pilots in the world. The men and women that make up Navy and Marine Corps Rotary Wing are a special breed...night, low altitude over the sea, in all types of weather, in all parts of the world...you never take it for granted, and you only really understand it if you've done it. We share a common bond. I've made lifelong friends and acquaintances within NHA...one of the best networking mechanisms out there for Naval Aviation alumni... I'm constantly networking amongst NHA members...and confident that will continue for many, many more years.
CAPT Chuck Deitchman, USN (Ret.)
I originally became involved in NHA in my first tour. There were two primary reasons my CO and XO were active members and “encouraged” us to attend. Once I started attending the functions I realized it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the Symposiums because it provided an opportunity to catch up with my flight school buds who were stationed on the opposite coast. The more I participated the more I came to realize what a great organization this was for building our helicopter community. We hardly had any flag representation then, and it seemed like the only time Navy Leadership paid any attention to us was when they came to the symposium. The more senior I became the more I learned about how NHA works. It is funded largely through industry donations which make most events a really good deal for those attending. More importantly it provided the structure to promote the Navy Helicopter Community. NHA contributed directly to the airframes you are flying today and to the proposed upgrades you to keep you relevant. It is an organization that respects what you do and promotes it to the greater Navy and the civilian world. As one of the old timers now, I still enjoy attending events and learning from what the fleet is doing today, and I still have a great time.
CAPT Dennis DuBard, USN (Ret.)
In today’s networked and social media world, joining a professional association may well be one of the most important aspects of today’s business and professional careers. Having been retired for almost nine years, I am not sure I fully appreciated the opportunity that NHA provided me while on active duty. Today, I am involved in several associations that offer valuable information and resources that keep me connected to current developments in my professional as well as personal life. NHA is a classic example of a professional organization that allows you to connect with your peers, share ideas, ask for advice and to deepen your relationships as well as make new contacts. NHA is more than just a trip to the annual symposium or a monthly meeting in your respective region, it’s where everyone throughout the rotary wing community shares something in common, service to our craft.” Captain Dennis DuBard, USN (Ret), Manager, Public & Government Relations General Dynamics NASSCO.
CAPT Dave Bean, USN (Ret.)
As a retired officer ‘of a certain age’, I am frequently asked if I miss the Navy. The answer is, of course, yes; more importantly, I miss the people I had the honor to serve with, and this is where NHA made a difference. From the professional, energetic staff in the front office, to the many great members I got to know, NHA became an important part of my development as an officer, and a rotary-wing aviator. Discussions begun on the pages of Rotor Review, and continued in ready rooms and at symposiums, served to advance our community in a way that more established, Navy-wide publications could not. This was our community, and we were able to take ownership of it in very tangible ways. NHA has always cemented that special bond amongst unrestricted Naval aviators – on both a professional and personal level. It continues to do so long after you last step off the flight deck. Be part of something special: join and support this organization and continue a legacy of excellence!
CAPT Sil Perrella, USN
I first got actively involved in NHA in 1997 when assigned to the FRS as an Instructor Pilot. I volunteered to run registration for the Symposium that year and that was when it hit me that this was truly “our” organization to run, organize, and benefit from. The energy and enthusiasm from both the National Office and the volunteers that help make sure these events are a success have inspired me throughout my career and really drove home the importance of maintaining and advocating for our professional organization – this is what makes what we do so special! The camaraderie, networking, and professional reading NHA brings to Naval Rotary Aviation is a large part of what has kept me serving for so many years and is why I not only advocate for the organization, but continue to actively stay engaged as member and community leader. NHA is “our” professional organization and is the uniting connection that bonds all of us wearing wings of gold regardless if we are Navy, Marine Corps, USCG or officer and enlisted. If we fly maritime rotary – we are in. I am proud to call NHA my professional organization and intend to be a member for life.
CAPT Thomas Freeland, USN (Ret.)
Why NHA….. For those still serving and those like me who now only watch, we are and always will be Naval Aviators who aircrew Rotary Wing aircraft. We are not unique, but are different from others who fly. We are qualified in both fixed and rotary wing. Unlike fixed wing aircraft, our Rotary Wing pilot skills are our ejection seat and parachute. We fly through the weather, not over it. Our aircraft is a weapon system that goes to war, but is also an angel of mercy for those in peril on the sea or in need of assistance no one else can reach. NHA has fought long and hard to bring these and many other attributes of Naval Rotary Wing Aviation to the forefront, ensuring that both the Navy and the Country understands the importance of what you do and who you are. NHA has been around for almost a half century. Over that time a lot of things have happened, some good, some bad. One thing is certain, without the support of those who crew and maintain Naval Rotary Wing aircraft NHA could not do what it has done and still needs to do to make Naval Rotary Wing aviation better for the next generation-for those like you who want to experience the Wings of Gold and the thrill of vertical flight.
CAPT Gene Pellerin, USN (Ret.)
The Naval Helicopter Association came into my world when I was told that I was appointed as the NHA Membership Chairman. I had just returned from Viet Nam (HAL-3) in 1972 and assigned the Safety Officers job at ASWWINGPAC. I should point out that my office had been the women’s head so I had my own water closet. Only the Wing Commander and I had our own heads, but I digress. Captain Mark Starr and Commander Reid Carleton handed me a stack of NHA membership cards and told me I was it. At that point I did not know what NHA was. The first symposium had been held the week before I arrived state-side so I had missed the first gathering of the faithful. At that point membership in NHA was $1.00 for a life time. Over the years NHA has evolved into an important part of the Navy helicopter community. It provided us the opportunity to meet flag officers, industry CEO’s, Chief of Naval Operations, Secretary of The Navy, and best of all each other. While most of us served on both the east and west coasts as the community grew and personnel policies (funding restraints) reduced the cross country transfers the east and west communities did not experience the intermingling that we had early on. As a point of interest, early in our careers we were told that we should gain experience in other aviation missions (VP, VS, etc.) if we wanted an opportunity to get promoted. Over time that perspective changed and it became apparent that the helicopter business was reaching the point that squadrons needed well-seasoned air crews. The community needed to share experiences, ideas and develop a plan for the future, and make sure we operated safely. NHA provided the helicopter community an opportunity to be observed as a professional and talented arm of Naval Aviation. As our operational expertise became evident throughout the chain of command our opportunity for promotion improved significantly. NHA was a prime mover in garnering attention to the community, the quality of talent and mission capabilities. Through our work with aircraft and system manufacturers, we have had a significant involvement in our operational effectiveness. Our skills are well known, however because the Naval Air is dynamic there is a need to keep the ball rolling. We cannot rest on our laurels, work the problems, stress safety and work throughout the Navy to continue the amazing success enjoyed by the community.
AFCM Bill "Red Dogg" Moss, USN (Ret.)
In the spring of 1978 my Ops Boss at PMRF (then Lt. Jack Ward) came to me and said, “Chief, put together a slide show because you are going to NHA in San Diego.” NHA?? What the hell is that? PMRF had 7 H3’s and about 10 SAR Crewman; all pilots had to be second tour H3 guys and we were short 6 Crewman via the NAVPERS detailing Manual. Money was so tight that I was sent as an 8215 SAR guy without any FRAC or H3 maintenance schooling. OJT Baby!!! We needed crewman to fill the required billets. I was being sent with my dog and pony slide show to give the PMRF presentation but mainly to do a face to face with the detailers and discuss crew shortages. Which happened due to my being able to have a one on one with the detailers at the NHA Symposium. A fter that initial symposium in 1978 I joined NHA. I might be one of the oldest enlisted members still around. I don’t think that is continuous membership due to deployments etc but close. Why NHA? Over the years and especially during the late 70’s and all thru the 80’s I attended every NHA Symposium there was and even when I was in HC5 on Guam Skipper Bogle made sure I got back to San Diego to attend. The reason for this was at the NHA Symposiums you are exposed to Vendors, Admirals, Detailers and a wide assortment of folks that can help you do your job. As a Maintenance Chief I had access on a personal basis to folks that would not ever talk to me on the phone. They knew me and I knew them. Through NHA I met the NAESU Rep and was able to secure the very first Sikorsky Tech Rep ever at Barking Sands. Through NHA I was able to fly to Pensacola at the NARF Depot and speak to the director of field ops (Whom I had met at a previous NHA Symposium) and not only secure an H3 Transmission and a field service team to come to Barking Sands but got to have lunch with him too! Through NHA I learned the fine points of Vibration Analysis from the guys that built the machines! Through NHA I learned of hoist cables and SAR Equipment and what the other guys were doing in the SAR world. There was always a unique session at every NHA Symposium. Which I would always log as “things I did not know”. Now in my “waning” years I attend the symposiums for the camaraderie and to visit with old friends and Shipmates. Some of my good friends that were vendors have passed as have some of my Skippers. But it does this old Master Chiefs heart good to see the young AW’s wandering around and just taking it all in. They don’t understand it yet but one day they will find that the relationships you build thru NHA will last a lifetime! That’s WHY NHA…
CAPT Chris Heaney, USN (Ret.)
If you ask me about what I enjoyed most about my career in Naval Aviation, I will always answer that the two best parts are saying that I got to fly the hell out of a Phrog in the best community the Navy has ever produced, and that I made some of the best friends I have ever known. Flying in the HC community was, from day one, absolutely the best stroke of luck I could have had out of flight school. The Phrog, and even the Knighthawk, were really flown by both the pilots and the crewmen. It was a team, and a great one, at that! Starting when I was in flight school at NAS Whiting Field, I learned the value of spending the end of a long day at the office by unwinding at the club with a mentors, friends and protégés. The NHA social might have seemed like mandatory fun once or twice, but it truly helped define the best part of being a helicopter pilot. No matter how the day had gone, sitting at the bar and talking about the job we all knew we were lucky to have made any challenge worth it…yes, even the late Friday night FCF…!! So, Why NHA? Why not NHA!!!?? I miss lots about my career, but I know that there will always be a NHA social and a Fleet Fly-In and a Symposium that I can travel to. There, I will find good friends and meet the newest generation of unrestricted naval aviators. We all can and should be proud of that…and keep it going by talking it up and getting all the youngsters to join and make it theirs. Just like we did!!
CAPT Sam Phillips, USN
I joined NHA as a young Replacement Pilot at HC-3 in 1991 and I have never let my membership lapse. Lately I have not participated in-person as much as I would like, but I cherish being an NHA member because it helps me feel connected to the helicopter community that means so much to me. NHA provides great opportunities to serve and to meet other people. I was lucky enough to be the "NHA Stuff" Officer in the mid-nineties, and that was great. That meant I was a "national officer" and I got to attend meetings and interact with the senior leaders in of the helo community. I became friends with the great civilian staff at NHA Headquarters. I helped plan the NHA Symposium, and I met hundreds of people throughout the community by simply doing my "Stuff" duties. These are memories that I will always have, and I hope to continue to make more memories and build new friendships through NHA for the rest of my life.
CAPT Mike Fuqua, USN (Ret)
“What did you do in the Navy?” That’s a pretty common question as I’ve navigated civilian life since 1999. After 25 years in the Navy, I suppose there are a lot of answers to that question. My D.I., Staff Sergeant Penn, in Class 29-74 at AOCS, always told us that he was molding us to become Naval Officers first. It’s true that when I pinned on the Wings of Gold, I became a Naval Aviator. Like all of my friends throughout the years I had a wide variety of jobs with varying responsibility from lowly (although I didn’t know it at the time) Communications Officer to Commodore. I was a student at some of the nation’s most prestigious military schools. And I still see people who I will forever call shipmates. But by far…by a very large margin…I was a Helo Pilot. It’s what I wanted to do to from the start and is as much a part of my identity as my birthday. It didn’t take me very long to become immersed in my first squadron and Naval Aviation. And through the next 25 years I embraced my role as a Helo Pilot in almost every assignment and everything I did. Back in the day, if you were a Helo Pilot, you joined NHA. It’s what you did, no questions asked. I had a great time at every event, rekindled friendships, and participated fully in NHA throughout my career. Honestly, we didn’t take ourselves too seriously back then and NHA provided a venue to have fun with squadron mates and others up and down the flight line. Along the way I was selected as President and subsequently Director. I’ve seen the organization evolve tremendously from a small, loose association of like-minded people to an organization that sets the bar for military professional organizations. Since retirement, NHA provides a great link to the most important thing in any military career, the people. The second question people ask me is “Do you miss it”? You can probably guess that my answer is always, “Hell yes!”. But the modifier is that while I miss the life, the flying, the action…what I really miss are the people. Whether it’s the Annual Symposium, the Fleet Fly-in, the Scholarship program, Rotor Review, or a myriad of other programs, NHA is always there and serves as a touchstone for all who came before and those who are living the dream of Naval Helicopter Aviation today.