Commander Parker assumes command of HT-8

Published on April 23, 2018 with No Comments

Special to MiltonLocal.com

Commander Jessica Parker is pinned with her Command Ashore insignia by her wife and son in a ceremony onboard NAS Pensacola on Friday April 20, 2018. Photo by Lt. j.g. Luke Rague, NAS Whiting Field Public Affairs Staff.

Naval Air Station Whiting Field, FL Commander Stephen Audelo turned over command of Helicopter Training Squadron Eight (HT-8) to Cmdr. Jessica Parker on Friday, April 20, 2018 during a change of command ceremony at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola’s Naval Aviation Museum.

HT-8 is the Navy’s oldest currently active helicopter training squadron, which is responsible for flying more than 26,000 flight hours and graduating an estimated 168 Naval aviators every year. Serving as the commanding officer of the squadron represents a pinnacle achievement for Parker, following 18 years of distinguished service.

Parker graduated from the U. S. Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering in May 2000. She earned her Wings of Gold onboard NAS Whiting Field in February 2002, and reported to Helicopter Combat Support Squadron Three (HC-3), in San Diego, Calif., for advanced training in the MH-60S Seahawk.

Commander Jessica Parker receives the command of Helicopter Training Squadron Eight (HT-8) from outgoing commanding officer Cmdr. Steve Audelo in a ceremony onboard NAS Pensacola on Friday April 20, 2018. Photo by Lt. j.g. Luke Rague, NAS Whiting Field Public Affairs Staff.

Parker’s first operational assignment was with the HC-5 in Agana, Guam, followed by a return to HC-3 to work as the student control officer, guiding the service’s newest winged aviators.
In September 2004, she transferred across the runway to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21 (HSC-21). Parker deployed with HSC-21 to the Fifth Fleet area of operations in the Middle East with both the USS Camd

en (AOE-2) and the USS Peleliu (LHA-5). While aboard the Peleliu, she earned her Officer-of-the-Deck Underway Qualification, a unique accomplishment for aviators.

 

After HCS-21, Parker served as a flag aid to the Commander, Navy Personnel Command in July 2007, completed her Masters of Science degree in Operations Management from the University of Arkansas, and served as a catapult and arresting gear officer on the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). She then served as the safety officer, Detachment One officer-in-charge, administrative and maintenance officer in HSC-6. She most recently was assigned to the Joint Staff at the Pentagon in August 2014, where she served as an assistant deputy director for the Operations and Presidential Strike Advisor and as an emergency actions officer for Operations Team One in the National Military Command Center.

Parker reported for duty as executive officer of HT-8 in June, 2016, under Audelo’s leadership, preparing for her turn at the helm.
Parker is honored by the responsibilities of command, but feels the weight as well.

“It is a privilege to instruct the sons and daughters of this Nation, and it is our duty to make them better with every flight,” Parker said. “And so with the privilege of leading the finest squadron in the Navy, it is my duty to make it a little better so that we can continue to train the very best helicopter pilots in the world.”
The guest speaker for the event, Rear Adm. Jeffrey W. Hughes, Deputy Chief of Naval Personnel / Commander, Navy Personnel Command, understands that is the work done at NAS Whiting Field that keeps the Navy running smoothly.

“In my nearly 30 years affiliated with Naval aviation,” Hughes sated. “I can emphatically report that the state and reputation of the Navy helicopter community has never been better, with much of this success attributable to what happens right here. HT-8 has sustained a culture of flight and tactical training excellence…and it has been all due to the aviators, the crewmen, the technicians, the support personnel at all levels that brought our capabilities and our contributions to the forefront.”

Before reading his departing orders, Cmdr. Audelo left parting words to the squadron he led.
“Ours is an unforgiving profession–it is rife with danger–never forget that. Be the best!” Audelo said. “Anytime we strap on the machine or go fly…launching into the dark of night, all ends of the spectrum and everything in between, we have an ethical obligation to be the best…your ethical obligation is to be the best warrior you can be.”

Cmdr. Lena Kaman became the new executive officer of HT-8 during the ceremony, beginning her preparations to take the helm of HT-8 at the next change of command.

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