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Johnnie Kelley

A 2003 East Ascension High School graduate and Baton Rouge 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 his success from lessons he 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 a naval air crewman 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 pounds (max gross) and can travel over 120 miles per hour for nearly 320 miles on a tank of gas, according to a news release.

As a naval air crewman, Kelley, a 2003 graduate of East Ascension High School, 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.

“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 war-fighting 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, the release said. This includes everything from maintaining helicopter airframes and engines, to processing paperwork, handling weapons and flying the aircraft.

“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.

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

“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."