EAST CHINA SEA – The sound of wind passes by him with his cranial helmet on as he opens a compartment on the helicopter. His hands work quickly and skillfully to fix the small electrical problem. The interesting part about this job is that he’s working on a military helicopter on a cruiser in the middle of the ocean.
Aviation Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class Wilson Gamboa is assigned to the “Saberhawks” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 77, currently deployed with the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62). His work setting is located mostly on the flight deck and in the hangar bay. Gamboa said he didn’t imagine himself working on aircraft in the middle of the ocean, but that he was proud he made the decision to join the Navy to end up where he is.
“What motivated me to join the Navy was a lot of things.” said Gamboa. “My biggest one was to travel the world. I also wanted to better myself and to be something more, while also doing something for my country. I didn’t think I would be in this spot where I’m at right now, but I’m pretty grateful for the people I’ve met and the countries I’ve been to.”
Before the Navy, Gamboa said he wasn’t much of a leader, but advancing through the ranks and gaining more responsibilities in the Navy has brought out the natural leader in him.
“The Navy isn’t just a job; it’s a lifestyle to me.” said Gamboa. “The most influential mentor in my career was my previous Leading Petty Officer. His name was AM1 [Aviation Structural Mechanic 1st Class] Canon, now known as, AMC [Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic] Canon. His leadership style is what I valued the most. Everything he did, he strived for perfection. The standard he held himself to is the standard I work to achieve.”
Gamboa, a 2011 graduate from Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Florida, joined the Navy as an Aviation Electrician’s Mate (AE). An AE works with all electrical wires and components on aircraft to ensure the aircraft will be able to fly safely and effectively.
“I’m an Aviation Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class.” said Gamboa. “Basically I’m an electrician for aircraft. In the Navy, you can work on jets, helicopters, P-8’s, and E-2’s, but on this ship, I work specifically on an MH-60R helicopter. On a day to day basis I deal with testing, troubleshooting
and replacing electrical parts. That can range anywhere from flight components to basic lighting
Being on a ship, Gamboa says, is similar to being stationed on land in their Forward deployed
location at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan. HSM-77 can deploy on multiple different ship
platforms. The only difference between being deployed with a ship and operations back in
Atsugi is flying off of a ship. The job is still the same, but the location for where Gamboa sleeps
and works is different.
“There is a difference between working on a Carrier versus being one of the select few chosen to
deploy with a cruiser or destroyer.” said Gamboa. “I think I’m partly lucky and partly privileged
to be out here and be a part of this team. We’re all different rates, so even though I’m an AE, we
all help each other with the tasks we are given. I’m not restricted to just doing my job. I can learn
and get other qualifications in the other rates. It keeps work interesting and fun.”
Chancellorsville is one of three cruisers deployed to 7th Fleet which operates in the Indo-Pacific
region of operations. 7th Fleet’s area of operation spans more than 124 million square
kilometers, stretching from the International Date Line to the India/Pakistan border and from the
Kuril Islands in the North to the Antarctic in the South. Usually, cruisers will have a deployed
squadron assigned to them.
“A squadron deploys with a cruiser or destroyer to assist with their air capabilities.” said
Gamboa. “This is important, because we acquire information that ships are unable to. Without
these helicopters working properly, we can’t do most of the missions that the Commander of 7th
Fleet assigns us.”
Chief Aviation Electronics Technician Ben Jones is the leading chief petty officer for air
department onboard Chancellorsville. He can always be seen in the hangar bay or air department
office making sure everything is running smoothly.
“Petty Officer Gamboa is an exceptional leader, mentor and Sailor who continually exemplifies
the spirit, pride and professionalism that sets the Navy apart.” said Jones. “He is the back bone of
the HSM-77 Combat Element. His hard work and experience ensures our success. His future is
limitless and he possesses the strength and determination to succeed as a future Chief Petty
Officer or to pursue a Commissioning.”
With the last few months remaining with his Squadron before his next command, Gamboa said
he’s going to miss a lot of good people he has connected with.
"The people that I work with are a great bunch of people.” said Gamboa. “They have great
personalities and are hard workers. I’m lucky to be working with them. I’m sad to be leaving the
command soon to my next duty station. Hopefully I enjoy the next squadron as much as I have
Chancellorsville is forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of
security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.