Santa Claus native flies the Navy's newest helicopter

Lt. Ian Park of Santa Claus is a helicopter pilot with the “Vipers” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 48. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Robert Zhan)

Navy Office of Community Outreach

MAYPORT, Fla. — A 2008 Heritage Hills High School graduate and Santa Claus native is serving with a U.S. Navy helicopter squadron that flies the Navy’s newest and most technologically-advanced helicopter.

Lt. Ian Park is a helicopter pilot with the “Vipers” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 48, 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 helicopter pilot, Park is responsible for flying helicopters, long term planning, creating flight schedules and coordinating with ship operations.

The outgoingness and friendliness from my hometown has helped me in my career,” said Park.

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.

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

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.  

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

It’s cool to be able to serve my country,” said Park. I am the first in my family to serve. To contribute to the security and safety of the nation lets me know I am a cog in that piece of the bigger picture.

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