PVSchools grad keeps specialty Navy helicopters flying

Ken McElwee (photo by Navy Office of Community Outreach)

Ken McElwee (photo by Navy Office of Community Outreach)

A 2004 Shadow Mountain High School graduate and Phoenix native is serving with a U.S. Navy helicopter squadron that flies the Navy’s newest and most technologically-advanced helicopter.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Ken McElwee is a naval air crewman with the “Vipers” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 48, a Mayport, Fla. 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 air crewman, McElwee is responsible for managing the mission systems for the rear of the MH-60R helicopter and qualified as a search and rescue swimmer.

“I love that our job is constantly changing,” said McElwee. “Everyday it is something new and always a new challenge which helps me push myself.”

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.

McElwee said he and other HSM-48 sailors are proud to be part of a warfighting team that readily defends America at all times.

“I like that the group of guys I work with are truly like brothers,” said McElwee. “We really push each other to be better both personally and professionally.”

Sailors’ jobs are highly varied within the squadron. Approximately 270 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.

“The thing I love the most about being a part of this great organization are the people,” said Cmdr. Jeff Hill, HSM-48’s commanding officer. “The level of commitment and professionalism by every member of Viper Nation is second to none. But more importantly, they represent what’s best about our nation and the generation of American’s dedicating their lives to something bigger. Dedicating themselves to making a difference. Because at the end of the day, that’s what we do in Viper Nation, it’s what we do in the Navy, we make a difference.”

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

“The Navy has really taught me humility,” said McElwee. “It has really shown me how to learn from other people’s experiences.”

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