Hi, my name is Lt. j.g. Brittany Young. I am a helicopter pilot for Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21 (HSC-21)stationed at Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego. I graduated from the Naval Academy in 2009, and earned my wings in March 2011 and Pacific Partnership 2012 is my first deployment.
I always thought about joining the Navy when I was younger. I remember going with my father to see a Blue Angels air show when I was in high school. I remember looking and watching the planes flying in formation and thinking that being a pilot would be a great career – it seemed like a job where I could both work and have fun – the kind of job where I could travel and see places. I wanted to be a part of something larger than myself, and that’s when I knew that the Navy was for me.
When I first found out that I was scheduled to fly as part of Pacific Partnership I was ecstatic. It was a mission that would not only help thousands people, but do it in some very exotic locations. Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, and Cambodia were countries that I had only seen in the movies, but with PP12 I would get a chance to see them first hand. It would truly be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Combining where we were going with what we were doing would be as fulfilling of a mission as I could ever hope for.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first embarked aboard USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), especially with it being my first deployment. I knew there would be a lot of logistics, planning, and flying, but this was has much more difficult than I anticipated. I expected to fly a lot – which I did, but it ended up being much more exhausting than I had imagined. We were constantly shuttling doctors, nurses, and other crew members around different countries where the air traffic controllers were very difficult to understand. There were constant changed in the weather and the flight schedule which made our jobs a constant battle.
Looking back, this has been a great experience. I remember flying in Manado, Indonesia and seeing an active volcano. We flew up to 6,000 feet so we could get to the top of it, where we could see the smoke rising from the crater. I had seen a volcano once before, but there was nothing like seeing it from a bird’s eye view – it was truly exhilarating. Another day that stands out was a day where I wasn’t flying. We were in Vietnam and participated in the renovation of a medical clinic. I really enjoyed being on the ground, working with other people from the ship and host nation volunteers. There is something rewarding about being involved with a hands-on project. Helping build a clinic that would benefit the community for many years really left a lasting impression on me.
I would love to participate in this mission again and I would recommend Pacific Partnership to anyone in a heartbeat. This is the kind of mission that people may only get a chance to do once in a lifetime – I feel lucky that I was chosen to participate in it and I believe that we really made a difference in the lives of the people we helped. For example, I was able to observe a cataract surgery in Indonesia. The patient was completely blind in his left eye and it had been years since he had seen clearly. After the surgery was over, the surgeon held up two fingers and the man was able to distinguish them. The fact he was able to see again almost brought me to tears. This man’s life had just been changed for the better and I was there to see it happen.
I believe that Pacific Partnership is all about teamwork. Having so many different partner nations, with different languages, and cultures working together for one main goal was incredible and I am fortunate to have been a part of it. Throughout Pacific Partnership 2012, we were able to work together for a greater common good—that is what this is mission is all about.
I flew aboard this mission expecting to gain flight time, fly a lot of PMC (Passengers, mail, cargo) and gain experience as an Aircraft Commander aboard a ship. PP12 has exceeded my expectations.
As a pilot, each day came with challenges that really forced me, and all of the pilots, to fly outside of our comfort zone. These challenges included long distances (in Cambodia we flew 200 miles round trip every time we left the ship), landing zones surrounded by people and buildings, and in-flight fuel calculations (flying is one thing, but flying while doing math is quite another). All of these tasks were compounded with the need to train the junior pilots during operational missions, a difficult yet rewarding responsibility of an Aircraft Commander. Pacific Partnership has certainly been a deployment that will stand out in my memory for a long time.
I’ll never forget flying in Indonesia – being able to hop from island to island – it was the best flying I had ever done. The coastline was beautiful, there were active volcanoes and mountain ranges, and the environment was so green and lush. Not only that, the people seemed so happy that we were there. Flying along the coastline, the children would run out to the piers and wave to us – it was refreshing to see that sort of welcome. In a sense, it validated us being there and made our mission worth every effort.
Besides the flying, I’ve been able to meet so many different people from different backgrounds and military organizations. I’ve been able to play with the children in pediatrics and attend some of the ceremonies. I feel like I have had the chance to really see and experience what this mission is all about.
This deployment may only be my second, but I think this is one of the most rewarding deployments I will ever be a part of. The time spent in the mission ports was time spent truly impacting the lives of others. All throughout the ship, I can see how each individual’s job contributes to the greater mission and when it all comes together, I can see how this mission is one that really makes a difference.
From a pilot’s perspective, PP12 is the kind of mission that lends itself to personal growth and professional development. From the varied flying conditions to the daily interactions with so many different people – this has truly been a unique and memorable experience.