Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Scott Wood, Navy Public Affairs Support Element, Det. Northwest
OAK HARBOR, Wash. – Heroes always stand behind heroes. This doesn’t ring more true than for Naval Air Station Whidbey Island’s Search and Rescue (SAR) maintenance crew. While the public recognizes the daring rescues of the MH-60S helicopters and the team manning them, there’s a team in the background constantly at work ensuring these aircraft can fly and do their job.
“Being a plane captain, working out in the line shack, you’re the last person to look over that aircraft and say that every single thing on that aircraft is where it’s supposed to be,” said Aviation Structural Mechanic 2nd Class Naomi Beck, line shack supervisor for the SAR MH-60S helicopters.
“You’re the last person to look at that aircraft and sign off saying this aircraft can support the people in it and go out and support the mission. All that happened because I was able to look at an aircraft and say this can help save lives,” Beck added.
Being the team out of the spotlight, pride for the maintenance crew runs deep. This pride is no longer dependent on external recognition but an internal satisfaction knowing that one’s job is done and done well.
“I’m here to put out a problem. I’m concerned with productivity. Whatever I’ve got to do to be productive, to allow these guys to be productive and put that product out, that’s what I do,” said Maintenance Lead Dan Champlin, speaking about the potential stressors of the job and having to ensure the helicopters are ready to go at the turn of a dial.
Champlin conveyed his own internal satisfaction by asking a question, “Would you put your mother in this airplane and let her go fly? To a man, it was yes.”
“What you’re saying is you’re doing a good enough job you’re going to put your loved ones in there, and you feel good about it,” he explained.
Champlin mentioned there’s always the inherent frustrations that come with any job and that it’s easy to get bogged down in such details, but when asked what makes the job worth it, a slight grin came to his face as he answered, “There’s a great deal of pride that swells up in you because you’re a part of it and that, I think is the best part of the job, because you’re a part of something bigger than yourself.”
Champlin seemed to speak for the entire maintenance crew as everyone in the shop had his or her face down, intently concentrating on the task at hand.