Kissimmee native keeps newest, most advanced helicopters flying

Petty Officer 2nd Class Yarel Velazquez is a  2012 Liberty High School graduate.

A 2012 Liberty High School graduate and Kissimmee native is serving with a U.S. Navy helicopter squadron that flies the Navy’s newest and most technologically-advanced helicopter.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Yarel Velazquez credits much of their success from lessons they learned growing up in Kissimmee.

“There’s a lot of different cultures and backgrounds in my hometown,” said Velazquez. “It’s helped me while serving by allowing to achieve a level not a lot of Hispanic’s accomplish. I want to be a mentor to those who eventually come after me.”

Velazquez is currently enrolled of University of North Florida.

Velazquez is an aviation ordnanceman 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.

As an aviation ordnanceman, Velazquez is responsible for handling naval explosives.

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.

Velazquez is now a part of a long-standing tradition of serving in the Navy our nation needs.

“My father was in the Navy and inspired me to join because he is such a strong figure that I’ve always wanted to be like,” said Velazquez.

Velazquez said they are proud to be part of a war-fighting team that readily defends America at all times.

“My deployments while serving are my proudest accomplishments,” said Velazquez. “I have two ship deployments and one to Jordan.”

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.

Velazquez is playing an important part in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices

in support of the National Defense Strategy.

“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.”

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon capital assets, Velazquez and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes.

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

“Serving in the Navy means I get access to so many programs that are beneficial to me,” said Velazquez. “It sets me up for a better life.”