SAN DIEGO – Lt. Benjamin Roberts, a native of Midland, wanted to continue a family tradition of service.
“My grandfather was a county sheriff and was in the Navy in World War II,” said Roberts. “My dad, uncles, cousins, all were in the Navy.”
Now, Roberts serves with the Scorpions of Helicopter Maritime Squadron (HSM) 49, working with one of the Navy’s most advanced helicopters at Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego.
“It's busy working at this command," said Roberts. "We work a lot of hours, but we get to fly a lot too in different areas I've never been.”
A 2009 graduate of Central Cabarrus High School in Concord, Roberts is a pilot with a versatile squadron that’s capable of completing a number of important missions for the Navy with the MH-60R “Seahawk” helicopter. “I'm the assistant operations officer," said Roberts. "I'm in charge of building our flight schedule and tracking flight hours and maintaining qualifications for 65 pilots and aircrewmen.”
Roberts credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned in Midland.
“I grew up on a farm, and working for my family taught me a lot of lessons about hard work,” said Roberts. “Learning from my parents about right and wrong has helped me in my Navy career. ”
HSM 49's primary mission is to conduct sea control operations in open-ocean and coastal environments as an expeditionary unit. This includes hunting for submarines, searching for surface targets over the horizon and conducting search and rescue operations. According to Navy officials, the MH-60R is the Navy's new primary maritime dominance helicopter.
Greatly enhanced over its predecessors, the MH-60R helicopter features a glass cockpit and significant mission system improvements, which give it unmatched capability as an airborne multi-mission naval platform. As the U.S. Navy's next generation submarine hunter and anti-surface warfare helicopter, the MH-60R "Romeo" is the cornerstone of the Navy's Helicopter Concept of Operations. Anti-submarine warfare and surface warfare are the MH-60R's primary missions. Secondary missions include search and rescue, medical evacuation, vertical replenishment, naval surface fire support, communications relay, command, control, communications, command and control warfare and non-combat operations.
“I think it's one of the coolest aircraft in the Navy," said Roberts. "It has so many capabilities, there are so many different missions that we can complete.”
Serving in the Navy means Roberts is part of a community that is taking on new importance in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy. America is a maritime nation, and that the nation’s prosperity is tied to the ability to operate freely on the world’s oceans.
More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water; 80 percent of the world’s population lives close to a coast; and 90 percent of all global trade by volume travels by sea.
“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.”
Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community, and career, Roberts is most proud of getting his pilot’s wings of gold and becoming a qualified helicopter aircraft commander.
“It took me two years of work to get my wings. Then three more years of hard work to become aircraft commander,” said Roberts. “Now, I'm a 28-year-old in charge of a $45 million aircraft. That's pretty amazing.”
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Roberts and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes contributing to the Navy the nation needs. “Serving in the Navy is a way to carry on the family tradition," said Roberts. "I'm third generation in the Navy and I hope to someday have some children that will be the fourth.”