Photo by Specialist Gary Ward Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Smith serves in a U.S. Navy helicopter squadron flying the Navy’s newest and most technologically-advanced helicopter.

By Specialist 1st Class Amanda Rae Moreno

A 2005 East Bay High School graduate is serving with a U.S. Navy helicopter squadron that flies the Navy’s newest and most technologically-advanced helicopter. Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Smith credits success from lessons he learned growing up in the Tampa area.

“I learned about hard work, loyalty and determination; all values you need to be successful in the Navy,” said Smith.

Smith is an air framer with the ‘Airwolves’ of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 40, a Mayport, Florida-based squadron that operates the Navy’s next generation submarine hunter and Anti-Surface Warfare helicopter, the MH-60R Seahawk. Each helicopter is nearly 65 ft. long, may weigh up to 23,500 lbs. (max gross) and can travel over 120 miles per hour for nearly 320 miles on a tank of gas.

As an air framer, Smith is responsible for flight control maintenance.

According to Navy officials, the MH60R is the most capable multi-mission helicopter available in the world today. It is used for a variety of missions, including hunting and tracking enemy submarines, attacking enemy ships, search and rescue, drug interdiction, delivering supplies and supporting the Navy’s special operations forces.

It is replacing the Navy’s older helicopters because of its greater versatility and more advanced weapon systems.

“My grandfather was in the Merchant Marines in Korea, and he inspired me to join,” said Smith.

“I am also very proud that the Navy allowed me to get my degree from Embry-Riddle in 2019 in aeronautical engineering,” said Smith.

Sailors’ jobs are highly varied within the squadron. Approximately 297 Navy men and women are assigned and keep all parts of the squadron running smoothly. This includes everything from maintaining helicopter airframes and engines to processing paperwork, handling weapons and flying the aircraft.

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

“Serving in the Navy gives me a sense of pride and being able to say I have done my part for my country,” said Smith. “And it gives me an overall appreciation about what you work for in the big picture.”