NORFOLK, Va. – A 2006 South High School Urban Academy graduate and Columbus, Ohio native is part of an elite Navy helicopter squadron with a critical mission: hunting and destroying enemy mines in waters around the world.
Petty Officer 1st Class Damien Baisden serves with Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 15, known as the “Blackhawks,” which operates out of Norfolk.
Baisden works as a personnel specialist, which is responsible for providing military personnel with information and counseling related to Navy occupations, opportunities for general education and job training, requirements for promotion, and rights and benefits. They maintain and audit pay and personnel records of military personnel, determine military pay, travel entitlements, and deductions.
“I’ve always enjoyed helping sailors with their pay,” Baisden said. “Nothing is more rewarding than getting positive feedback from them.”
The squadron’s primary mission is to provide combat-ready helicopters for airborne mine countermeasures using a magnetic minesweeping sled. The MH-53E helicopter tows this sled while patrolling foreign and domestic waters to locate and eradicate sea-based mines that would damage watercraft. In doing so, the helicopter’s crew is able to map out safe sea-lanes for travel. Adding speed and range to their operations, MH-53E crews also conduct airborne mine countermeasures. The MH-53E is capable of flying over the horizon at speeds greater than 170 mph.
“People are the most critical element of HM-15’s ability to maintain a combat-ready posture capable of deploying anywhere in the world in 72 hours,” said Cmdr. Bernard V. Spozio.” These sailors are always advancing; working to better themselves and the squadron as a whole, and their tireless pursuit of perfection is the lifeblood of our organization.”
“I love that this command respects everyone’s rank,” Baisden said.
The sailors assigned to HM-15 support rotating 24-hour operations. Jobs are highly specialized and designed to keep each part of the squadron running smoothly. Whether training new aviators, maintaining airframes and engines, processing paperwork, or handling and flying the aircraft, Baisden said the key to the squadron’s success is teamwork.
“Serving in the Navy has allowed me to travel and see new things,” Baisden said. “The Navy has really made me appreciate being an American.”