Mar Vista High Grad Serves with Versatile U.S. Navy Helicopter Squadron, “Dragon Whales”

Photo by Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Gary Ward

A 2001 graduate of Mar Vista High School in Imperial Beach is serving with the U.S. Navy Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28 in Norfolk, Virginia. 

Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Darien Durr is a naval aircrewman (helicopter) serving with HSC 28, known as the “Dragon Whales.” A versatile squadron that’s capable of completing a number of important missions for the Navy with the MH-60S “Seahawk” helicopter.

As Navy naval aircrewman, Durr is responsible for flight operations as well as training other junior sailors. He regularly trains 25 junior personnel for weapons deployments, search and rescue techniques, shipboard flights, and logistics missions.

“My favorite part is passing down 17 years of experience to junior sailors in all aspects of this job,” Durr said. “It’s rewarding to see the ‘street to fleet’ transition they make, especially when I see them tactically employ all of their required training.”

Durr credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned in San Diego.

“Growing up I learned from a lot of teachers the importance of not quitting and setting goals,” Durr said. I didn’t want to fail at anything which gave me the motivation to excel.”

Dragon Whales operate the MH-60S Seahawk and deploy with the Second, Fifth and Sixth Fleets to provide critical mission support. Their capabilities include drone recovery, special operations aerial training, cargo and passenger transport, and fleet support to Navy, Air Force, and Army units along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.

HSC 28 consists of 14 aircraft, 267 enlisted sailors, and 51 officers. At sea, they perform vital vertical replenishment (VERTREP); crucial passenger, mail, and internal cargo transport; and continuous search and rescue operations.

“What I like about serving in a squadron is being deployable and operational at a moment’s notice, always ready to answer the call,” Durr said.

Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community, and career, Durr is most proud of being a rescue swimmer instructor.

“You get to mold future rescue swimmers which is a great experience,” Durr said. “It’s also a lot of responsibility, you’re actually holding people’s careers in your hand and get to make the call whether they are ready to go to the fleet or not. It’s very rewarding.”

Operational and deployed today with the U.S. Navy as the primary anti-submarine warfare anti-surface weapon system for open ocean and littoral zones, the MH-60R Seahawk helicopter is the world’s most advanced maritime helicopter. It is the most capable naval helicopter available today designed to operate from frigates, destroyers, cruisers and aircraft carriers.

The MH-60R Sea Hawk is over 60 feet long, and can weigh up to 23,500 lbs. It is replacing the Navy’s older helicopters because of its greater versatility and more advanced weapon systems.

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Durr and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes, one that will provide a critical component of the Navy the nation needs.

“Serving in the Navy means excellence,” Durr added. “During my career, I’ve worked with every branch of the military and I saw the Navy excel in many areas. We’re a dominant force in the world. Every country knows about the Navy and what we’re capable of. Knowing that we are anywhere and everywhere at the same time, always ready for any mission, is what makes me proud to be a Navy sailor.”

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Originally from upstate New York, Dani Schwartz has lived in Coronado since 1996. She is thrilled to call Coronado home and raise her two children here. In her free time enjoys hitting the gym, reading, and walking her dog around the “island.”Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: