If you have ever had Mr. Salinas as a teacher, you have probably noticed the pilot paraphernalia lining the back of his classroom or have been asked who you are supporting during the biggest sporting event of the year (the Army-Navy Game, obviously). Even if you haven’t had him as your teacher, most students know that Mr. Salinas was in the Navy, but few know the full extent of his military service.
During his time as a helicopter pilot in the Navy, Mr. Salinas flew an SH-60B LAMPS Mark III Seahawk, or just Seahawk. Although the name is a lot to take in, a quick Google search reveals that this helicopter was mainly used for anti-submarine and search and rescue operations. “We would launch and do surface search,” said Mr. Salinas, “and basically just create a picture of the world for the carrier strike group or just for the ship that we were attached to.” By using radar systems, Seahawk pilots monitor blips near their ships in order to keep them safe.
“Over the course of a three-and-a-half-hour mission you’re basically just looking around to see what’s out there,” Mr. Salinas explained. “A surface ship can’t just suddenly appear, but a submarine can. We call it a riser, and if you get a radar riser… that’s immediately something you’re interested in.” However, risers were uncommon when Mr. Salinas was flying helicopters. Countries like Russia, China, and North Korea all had their fair share of submarines, but unless a Seahawk was flying in one of their backyards, it was uncommon to encounter one.
Besides standard surveillance, Mr. Salinas also participated in multiple joint training exercises. Included in these exercises were Northern Edge, a joint training program with allies based in Canada and Alaska, and RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific Exercise), one of the largest international maritime warfare exercises. “RIMPAC,” Mr. Salinas stated, “is a bunch of different countries… Japan and Australia and all kinds of countries working together… on different problems.” These joint exercises were important for military readiness in the face of any potential emergency.
But why helicopters? Mr. Salinas’ inspiration for becoming a helicopter pilot boiled down to two main reasons: his father and the 1992 film, A Few Good Men.
“My father was wounded very severely in Vietnam,” Mr. Salinas explained. “He was an infantryman and Marine and the reason he’s alive, and the reason I’m alive, is because of the helicopter pilot that went in to get him… I always thought that it would be a wonderful thing to be that helicopter pilot.”
The other half of Mr. Salinas’ inspiration actually came from a quote from the villain of A Few Good Men. “He [the villain] says, ‘we live in a world that has walls and those walls are guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it?’” This quote, in addition to a rich family history of serving in the military, inspired Mr. Salinas to take his turn standing watch on the metaphorical walls of America for 20 years as a Naval officer.
During those 20 years, Mr. Salinas’ most valued experience was flying rescue missions during Hurricane Katrina. To help out with rescue efforts, Mr. Salinas actually had to fly cross-country in a helicopter from San Diego to Pensacola, Florida, a trip that took about two days. Pensacola acted as the base of operations for helicopter missions into New Orleans until an aircraft carrier, the USS Harry S. Truman, was brought into the Gulf of Mexico. From both locations, Mr. Salinas was able to carry many people and even a dog out of New Orleans to safety.
“It was my favorite thing I ever did,” he stated, “and the reason why… is because I think most people join the military to help their country… and help actual American citizens.” And that is just what Mr. Salinas did.