NORFOLK, Va. – A 2010 Grissom High School graduate and Huntsville, Alabama, native is serving in the U.S. Navy with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Two (HSC-2) at Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Virginia.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Payden Zelenka is a Navy hospital corpsman serving with the Fleet Angels, a versatile squadron that’s capable of completing a number of important missions for the Navy with the MH-60S “Knighthawk” helicopter.
A Navy hospital corpsman like Zelenka is responsible for taking part in the training to be a search and rescue corpsman.
Zelenka credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned growing up in Huntsville.
“Huntsville is a really big Army military town. It undoubtedly influenced my decision to go Navy,” said Zelenka. "I always knew the military was something I wanted to do.”
HSC-2 trains more than 1,500 pilots, aircrewmen and aviation students annually. Squadron members train those who will fly and maintain the MH-60S helicopter in a variety of missions, including fleet logistics support, medical evacuation, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
When flying the “Knighthawk” helicopter, members of the Fleet Angels search for surface ships, support special operations forces, conduct combat search and rescue missions, and perform other military operations around the world.
A key element of the Navy the nation needs is tied to the fact that America is a maritime nation, according to Navy officials, and that the nation’s prosperity is tied to the ability to operate freely on the world’s oceans. More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water; 80 percent of the world’s population lives close to a coast; and 90 percent of all global trade by volume travels by sea.
Zelenka is playing an important part in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of National Defense Strategy.
“Our priorities center on people, capabilities and processes, and will be achieved by our focus on speed, value, results and partnerships,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “Readiness, lethality and modernization are the requirements driving these priorities.”
Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community and career, Zelenka is most proud of earning three Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals and a Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal for providing medical coverage during a Navy mini boot camp for kids.
“For my first achievement medal I provided a critical care plan for patients at Naval Medical Center San Diego,” said Zelenka.
Serving in the Navy is a continuing tradition of military service for Zelenka, who has military ties with family members who have previously served. Zelenka is honored to carry on the family tradition.
“My grandfather was an ordnance officer in the Army and my grandmother was an Army officer too. A great-grandfather was in the Navy also,” said Zelenka.
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied-upon assets, Zelenka and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes providing the Navy the nation needs.
“Serving in the Navy is about being selfless and putting yourself out there," added Zelenka. "I do it to help fellow shipmates. Leadership and being able to grow professionally every day are important here too.”