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Xenia native supporting versatile Navy missions


NORFOLK, Va. – Airman Samuel Bertke, a 2021 Xenia High School graduate, is serving in the U.S. Navy assigned to a helicopter squadron operating out of Norfolk, Virginia.

He is currently an aviation electrician’s mate with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 2. Members of HSC-2 fly and maintain the Navy’s MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter. Navy helicopters are able to perform many different missions. In general, some of the most common operations include search and rescue, air assaults, medical evacuations, supply transport and hunting submarines.

The skills and values needed to succeed in the Navy are similar to those found in Xenia, according to Bertke.

“Growing up in Xenia, I learned the importance of hard work and always doing the right thing,” he said. “I also learned respect. All of these life lessons have helped me in the military.”

Bertke joined the Navy two years ago partly because he didn’t want to have college debt.

“ … and I also wanted to follow in my uncle’s footsteps,” he said. “His name was Charles Burlingame. He was an F-4 Phantom pilot in the Navy. After he retired, he went to work as a pilot for American Airlines. He was the pilot aboard American Airlines Flight 77 that struck the Pentagon on 9/11.”

This year commemorates 50 years of women flying in the U.S. Navy. In 1973, the first eight women began flight school in Pensacola, Florida. Six of them, known as “The First Six,” earned their “Wings of Gold” one year later. During the past 50 years, the Navy has expanded its roles for women to lead and serve globally and today our women aviators project power from the sea in every type of Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard aircraft. According to Navy officials, our nation and our Navy are stronger because of their service.

Serving in the Navy means Bertke is part of a team 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.

“The Navy contributes to national security by supporting and protecting the U.S. and our allies,” Bertke said.

With 90 percent of global commerce traveling by sea and access to the internet relying on the security of undersea fiber optic cables, Navy officials continue to emphasize that the prosperity of the United States is directly linked to trained sailors and a strong Navy.

Bertke has many opportunities to achieve accomplishments during military service.

“I was proud to be named Blue Jacket of the Quarter earlier this year,” he said. “I’m also proud to have earned my plane captain qualifications. This is the biggest qualification you can earn as an airman. We’re responsible for ensuring the aircraft is in good working order prior to the pilots taking off.”

As Bertke and other sailors continue to train and perform missions, they take pride in serving their country in the U.S. Navy.

“Serving in the Navy requires courage,” he said. “We have to be able to look into the eye of the storm and not be scared to do the right thing.”

Bertke is grateful to others for helping make a Navy career possible.

“I’d like to send a shoutout to my mom, Janelle, and my dad, Joe,” he said. “Thank you for pushing me to be the best that I can be. I also want to send a special thank you to my wife, Gabrielle, for always being there to support me in my career.”