Ocean County Native Serves With U.S. Navy Helicopter Squadron

Chief Petty Officer Caitlyn Ellingham (Photo by Lt. Cmdr Ryan Murtha)

  FORKED RIVER – Chief Petty Officer Caitlyn Ellingham, a native of Forked River, is serving with Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 71, operating out of San Diego, California.

  Their mission is to conduct sea control operations in open-ocean and coastal environments, which includes hunting for submarines, searching for surface targets over the horizon and conducting search and rescue operations.

  Ellingham graduated from Lacey Township High School in 2013 and joined the Navy nine years ago.

  “I joined because my best friend’s brother-in-law said he could see me in the Navy, so I went to a recruiter and a week later I enlisted. I didn’t go to any other branch, just the Navy,” Ellingham said.

  “My mom was a teen mom. Her being so young and raising me, showed me that I can do anything I set my mind to. She taught me to be self-reliant. Any time I think something is hard in the Navy, I think of her and it helps me overcome adversity,” he added.

  Ellingham serves with the helicopter squadron that flies the U.S. Navy’s MH-60R Seahawk helicopters. The MH-60R is a “twin-engine helicopter used for anti-submarine warfare, search and rescue, drug interdiction, anti-ship warfare, cargo lift, and special operations.”

  2023 declares 50 years of women flying in the U.S. Navy. In 1973, the first eight women began flight school in Pensacola; one year later six of them, known as “The First Six,” earned their “Wings of Gold.”

  Since then, the Navy has expanded its roles for women to lead and serve globally. “Our women aviators project power from the sea in every type of Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard aircraft. Our Nation and our Navy is stronger because of their service,” the U.S. Navy stated.

  “Our mission remains timeless – to provide our fellow citizens with nothing less than the very best Navy: fully combat ready at all times, focused on warfighting excellence, and committed to superior leadership at every single level,” said Adm. Mike Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations. “This is our calling. And I cannot imagine a calling more worthy.”

  “There are a lot of things the Navy does in the background that people don’t realize we do,” Ellingham said. “The extent of what we do to protect the country is really unknown to most civilians.”

  Ellingham explained that her proudest Navy accomplishment is making the rank of chief petty officer in a short time.

  “I want the sailors I leave behind to continue my legacy,” she said. “I have met my best friends in my life through the Navy and have become independent because of the Navy. The military has made me the person I am. I don’t know an adult life outside of the Navy because I joined when I was 19. I like being a part of something bigger than myself.”

  “I would like to thank my mom. I wouldn’t be here without her. She sent me care packages and supported me throughout my deployments. I would also like to thank my family for their support,” she said.