Working with high-tech military hardware


A 2004 Northgate High School graduate and Newnan native is serving with a U.S. Navy helicopter squadron that flies the Navy’s newest and most technologically-advanced helicopter.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lacoste is an aviation structural mechanic with the “Vipers” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 48, a Mayport, Fla.-based squadron that operates the Navy’s next-generation submarine hunter and anti-surface warfare helicopter, the MH-60R Seahawk. Each helicopter is nearly 65 feet long, may weigh up to 23,500 lbs. (max gross) and can travel over 120 miles per hour for nearly 320 miles on a tank of gas.

As an aviation structural mechanic, Lacoste is responsible for removing and replacing components of the MH-60R helicopter and performing crucial inspections for preventative maintenance.

“I really enjoy the hands-on experience and being able to work on a multi-million dollar aircraft,” said Lacoste.

According to Navy officials, the MH-60R is the most capable multi-mission helicopter available in the world today. It is used for a variety of missions, including hunting and tracking enemy submarines, attacking enemy ships, search and rescue, drug interdiction, delivering supplies and supporting the Navy’s special operations forces.

It is replacing the Navy’s older helicopters because of its greater versatility and more advanced weapon systems.

Lacoste said he and other HSM-48 sailors are proud to be part of a warfighting team that readily defends America at all times.

“The leadership at this command is very supportive and they really want you to succeed,” said Lacoste.

Sailors’ jobs are highly varied within the squadron. Approximately 270 Navy men and women are assigned and keep all parts of the squadron running smoothly. This includes everything from maintaining helicopter airframes and engines, to processing paperwork, handling weapons and flying the aircraft.

“The thing I love the most about being a part of this great organization are the people,” said Cmdr. Jeff Hill, HSM-48’s commanding officer. “The level of commitment and professionalism by every member of Viper Nation is second to none. But more importantly, they represent what’s best about our nation and the generation of American’s dedicating their lives to something bigger. Dedicating themselves to making a difference. Because at the end of the day, that’s what we do in Viper Nation, it’s what we do in the Navy, we make a difference.”

Serving in the Navy, Lacoste is learning about being a more respectable leader, sailor and person through handling numerous responsibilities.  

“The Navy has taught me how to be flexible which really helps me adapt in any environment,” said Lacoste.