Commanding Officer Commander James Rocha
Commander James D. Rocha, most recently assigned to the Special Operations Command Europe, serving as a Special Operations Exercise Planner, was designated a Naval Aviator and Commissioned in August 1990, after completing Naval Flight Training through the Naval Aviation Cadet (NAVCAD) Program.
In 1991, following MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter training at the Fleet Replacement Squadron, Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron TWELVE (HM-12), CDR Rocha was assigned to his first operational squadron, Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron FOURTEEN (HM-14) at Naval Air Station Norfolk, Virginia. There he became the first Ensign ever designated as a Helicopter Aircraft Commander in the MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter. Additionally, he was designated an Airborne Mine Countermeasures (AMCM) Mission Commander (AHAC) and a Post Maintenance Functional Check Pilot (FCP). While assigned to HM-14, he executed duties as Facilities Manager, MCM 16A Maintenance Division Officer and Training Officer and deployed onboard the USS Inchon to Northern Europe to participate in Exercise BLUE HARRIER.
In 1994, CDR Rocha moved to Irvine California, where he and five other Instructor Pilots integrated five MH-53E helicopters and 75 enlisted personnel into Helicopter Marine Training Squadron 302 (HMT-302), combining the Navy’s MH-53E and the Marine Corp’s CH-53E pilot and aircrew training into one squadron, located at Marine Corps Air Station Tustin, California. While assigned to HMT-302, he held positions as the Squadron Safety Officer and Naval Aviation Training and Operational Procedures Standardization (NATOPS) Officer. During his tour with HMT-302, he assisted in the Squadron’s home port change of station to Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina. While attached to HMT-302, he was selected as the Naval Helicopter Association’s Instructor of the Year for their region. He served with the Marines at HMT-302 until June of 1997.
Following his Instructor tour with HMT-302, he was selected to return to HM-14 for a second operational tour. This time, he was charged with responsibilities as the Assistant Operations Officer and then later, the Quality Assurance Officer. During this tour he attained additional flight designations as a Helicopter Aerial Refueling (HAR) Instructor, Deck Landing Qualification (DLQ) Instructor and Airborne Mine Countermeasures (AMCM) Instructor.
In 1999, CDR Rocha transferred to the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in Monterey, California. In addition to completing his Masters of Science in Operational Oceanography, he also completed his Naval War College Non-resident Joint Professional Military Education, Level One.
Following his graduation from the Naval Postgraduate School in 2001, he was again assigned to HM-14, this time for his department head tour. While completing his department head tour, he executed duties as the Safety Officer, Admin Officer and finally as the Maintenance Officer. During this tour, he deployed to Bahrain and led missions into Iraq in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.
In January 2005, he transferred to Germany for his first overseas Joint Duty, assigned to the Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR). While assigned to SOCEUR, he executed duties in a variety of positions. Initially, while assigned to the Current Operations Division, he was responsible for tracking ongoing Special Operations missions and producing the daily Commander’s update brief and later assumed the duties of the Maritime Operations Officer. His last position within SOCEUR was as a Special Operations Exercise planner, where he developed and directed multi-national Counter Terrorism Special Operations exercises.
CDR Rocha’s awards and decorations include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, three Navy Commendation Medals, one with Combat “V”, two Navy Achievement Medals, the Navy Expeditionary Service Medal, the Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terror Service Medal, two National Defense Service Medals, the Expert Pistol Medal, and numerous unit awards.
Executive Officer Commander Gregory J. Gibson
Commander Greg "Hoot" Gibson, a native of Kansas City, MO, attended the Penn Valley Community College and completed an Associates Degree in Engineering in 1985. He continued to further his education at the University of Missouri-Rolla, earning his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. Four days after completing his bachelor's degree, he entered the Navy's Aviation Officer Candidate School, Pensacola, FL, and was commissioned an Ensign in Sept 1988.
CDR Gibson began his flying career in the mighty T-34B "Mentor" at NAS Corpus Christi and completed his advanced flight training in the TH-57 "Ranger" at NAS Whiting Field, Milton, FL. He was designated a Naval Aviator in March 1990. After designation, he continued his flight training on the MH-53E "Sea Dragon" at HM-12 in Norfolk, VA.
In 1991, CDR Gibson began his first fleet tour by deploying with HM-14 aboard the USS Tripoli (LPH-10) during Operation DESERT STORM. He also deployed with HM-14 aboard the USS Inchon (LPH-12) to the North Atlantic for the NATO minesweeping exercise BLUE HARRIER in 1993. During this tour, he also served as the Legal and Line Division Officer.
After his first operational fleet tour, he was selected to attend the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in Monterey, CA. At NPS, he completed his graduate thesis in "Aircrew Centered System Design" and in 1996 he graduated, earning a Master of Science in Aeronautical Engineering.
CDR Gibson's second fleet tour was served aboard the USS Guam (LPH-9). Aboard the USS Guam, he served as both the "Mini Boss" and the Hangar Deck Division Offficer. During this tour, he deployed with the US Marines to the Mediterranean Sea and the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation SOUTHER WATCH. He was also recognized as part of the USS Guam's Decommissioning Crew.
His next assignment was as the Safety Department Head at Helicopter Tactical Wing, US Atlantic Fleet. During this tour, he provided critical analysis that focused attention on the chronic failure of the CH-46 helicopter engines.
In 2002, CDR Gibson reported to HM-14 Norfolk, VA, where he served as Officer-in-Charge (OIC) of HM-14's 4-helicopter detachment (DET-1) forward deployed to Manama, Bahrain. During his time as OIC, DET-1 set new records for monthly hours flown and cargo delivered, and played a significant role in Special Operations "Task Force Sword." He also served as the Operations Department Head.
Upon completion of his Department Head tour, he served as the Aviation Unit Officer in Charge at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Panama City, FL. During this tour, his unit completed much of the weapons system developmental work for the MH-60S Organic Mine Countermeasures Platforms.
His personal awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (four awards), and the Navy Meritorious Service Medal (two awards).
Command Senior Enlisted Advisor AWCS (AW/NAC) Vasit Leidy
Senior Chief Leidy was born in Nakhon, Thailand on 12 October 1966. At the age of twelve his family moved to Layton, Utah where he graduated from Layton High School in 1984. In the summer of 1986, he accomplished one of his many goals by becoming a United States citizen. After graduating from the State University of New York in Utica with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Electronic Engineering, he enlisted in the Navy. He completed basic training in February 1989, where he received his first Letter of Commendation as Company Honorman. Senior Chief Leidy graduated with honors from Aviation Electrician’s Technician “A” school and reported to Naval Aircrew Candidate School in Pensacola, Florida.
Senior Chief Leidy reported to Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron Twelve (HM-12) in January 1990 for training as an Airborne Mine Countermeasures (AMCM) Aircrewman. His first squadron sea tour was with the HM-15 Blackhawks from July 1990 to July 1993. While there he advanced to Petty Officer Second Class, qualified as an AMCM first crewman, was selected Aircrewman of the Quarter, and Junior Sailor of the Year.
In September 1993, Senior Chief Leidy reported to HM-12 in Norfolk, Virginia, where he served as an AMCM Aircrew Instructor for the safe ground and flight operations during the training of AMCM Aircrew students. In June 1995, as a result of the de-commissioning of HM-12 he was selected to stand up the Airborne Mine Countermeasures Weapons System Training School (AWSTS) becoming a Plank Owner. While there he was selected COMHELTACWINGLANT and AWSTS Sailor of the Quarter.
In November 1996, he reported to HM-14 where he was assigned to the Avionics/Armament Division, Operations Department and deployed onboard the USS Inchon to Northern Europe to participate in Exercise BLUE HARRIER. In January 2000, Senior Chief Leidy was promoted to First Class Petty Officer. In June 2001, he reported to AWSTS for his second tour, where he immediately re-qualified as an AMCM Instructor and was appointed as the CNAL Fleet MH-53E NATOPS Evaluator. While there he qualified as Master Training Specialist (MTS) and was selected as AWSTS / COMHELTACWINGLANT Senior Sailor of the Year for 2001 and as AIRLANT Shore Sailor of the Year candidate for 2002.
In June 2003, he returned once again to serve in the Vanguard of HM-14 where he advanced to Chief Petty Officer. He served as the Operations Department LCPO, Line Division CPO, and Maintenance Control LCPO. In May 2007, he reported back to AWSTS as the Command Leading Chief Petty Officer and was advance to Senior Chief Petty Officer. In February 2008, Senior Chief Leidy assumed the responsibility as the AWSTS Senior Enlisted Advisor.
His personal awards include the Navy Commendation Medal (3 awards), Navy Achievement Medal (4 awards) and various service and campaign awards.