USA: Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron Honors Fallen Shipmates
Friends and service members gathered for a memorial service held aboard Naval Support Activity, Bahrain, July 23 to honor the lives of two fallen shipmates assigned to Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 15, also known as the ‘Blackhawks.’
Naval Aircrewman 2nd Class Joseph P. Fitzmorris, 31, of West Monroe, La., and Chief Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) Sean P. Sullivan, 40, of St. Louis, Mo., were killed July 19 when their MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter crashed 58 miles southeast of Muscat, Oman, while conducting heavy lift support operations.
The memorial service opened with an invocation by Lt. Kenneth Dowdey, command chaplain, followed by remarks from Cmdr. Sara Santoski, HM-15’s commanding officer.
Santoski spoke about both Fitzmorris and Sullivans’ selfless devotion to duty and unwavering commitment to the Navy.
“These men and Sailors were the best of us here at HM-15,” said Santoski. “They were honorable men, dedicated to their families, talented and professional soldiers, and true patriots. They certainly were the best America had to offer.”
Fitzmorris, commonly known among his friends as “JP,” joined the Navy in 2004 as an aviation electrician’s mate, and continued his service as a naval aircrewman. Fitzmorris completed tours with Helicopter Training Squadron (HT) 8, HT 28, and HM-15.
His friends remembered him as fun-loving with an undeniable zest for life.
“Fitz loved a lot of things,” said Lt. Michael McDonald. “He loved his wife Jackie, he loved his dogs, he loved his truck, he loved ordering Firehouse for lunch, he loved LSU Football, country music, beer, flying, and he loved us.”
Sullivan enlisted in the Navy as an aviation structural mechanic in 1992, continuing on as a Naval Aircrewman. His tours included Naval Air Facility Atsugi, HT 8, Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 4, Naval Recruiting District St. Louis, and HM-15.
Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 1st Class Eddie King remembered the passion Sullivan shared as a member of the ‘Blackhawk’ team.
“I’ve never met anyone that loved flying as much as he did. Anytime that bird was going up he wanted to be out there,” said King. “No matter what mission we were going to do, no matter the place, the time, the danger; no one’s hand went up before Chief Sullivan’s.
“I know in my heart he would have my back when I say to all of HM-15, ‘It’s time to get back to work. Let’s not mourn them, let’s honor them.'”
Fitzmorris is survived by his wife Jacqueline and his mother Florence.
Sullivan is survived by his wife Amy and his parents Timothy and Kathy.
HM-15 is assigned to Commander, Task Force 52, supporting mine countermeasures in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
Naval Today Staff, July 25, 2012