Baton Rouge Native keeps the Navy’s newest, most advanced helicopters flying

Dusty Good, Navy Office of Community Outreach / Guest Contributor
Chief Petty Officer Johnnie Kelley

A 2003 East Ascension High School graduate and Baton Rouge, Louisiana native is serving with a U.S. Navy helicopter squadron that flies the Navy's newest and most technologically-advanced helicopter.

Chief Petty Officer Johnnie Kelley credits much of their success from lessons they learned growing up in Baton Rouge.

"My hometown taught me compassion and teamwork," said Kelley. "If my town has a hurricane or hardship we rally together and help everyone regardless of their background. I use this very often in my military service as I work with different individuals from different regions of the country to accomplish our goals."

Kelley is an October of 2020 of Florida State College at Jacksonville with a bachelors in supervision and management.

Kelley is a naval aircrewman 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 feet 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 a naval aircrewman, Kelley is responsible for maintenance and operation of sensors and weapons systems on board the MH-60R helicopter.

According to Navy officials, the MH-60R 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. 

Kelley is now a part of a long-standing tradition of serving in the Navy our nation needs.

"My cousin served in the Marine Corps," said Kelley. "He seemed to enjoy his service encouraged me to join the Navy."

Kelley said they are proud to be part of a warfighting team that readily defends America at all times.

"I received the Navy and Marine Corps medal for rescuing an Australian mariner that was injured after sailing through a tropic storm," said Kelley. "As rescue swimmers, we train for hours a day preparing for the opportunity to help people in need and to help this man in his worst time of need was very special."

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. 

Kelley is playing an important part in America's focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.

"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."

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

Serving in the Navy, Kelley is learning about being a more respectable leader, Sailor and person through handling numerous responsibilities. 

"I am very proud to be part of the U.S. military," said Kelley. "The Navy is rich in history and phenomenal leaders that have lead ships to war and led a nation from the oval office. It is truly humbling to have the opportunity to serve my country."