Iceland and Wall Street and Helipads, oh my!

News Article / June 29, 2021

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Emily Lindahl, D Air PA

 

What do Iceland, Wall Street, and Boston helipads have in common? For Major Peter Wright, a Search and Rescue Aircraft Commander with the RCAF, these represent three special moments in his career.

When Major Wright was stationed at 103 Squadron in Gander, NL, he participated in a joint training exercise in Iceland, flying the CH-149 Cormorant. The experience has stayed with him, reinforcing his decision to follow his dream of becoming a pilot.

Coming from a military family, Major Wright knew he wanted to be a pilot from an early age. His father had a twenty-two year career in the CAF and, as a single father, pushed himself, at times even holding down three jobs to provide food and clothing for his two children. Major Wright helped his father by taking care of his younger sister. He assisted his father in teaching martial arts, and saved enough money to buy the family’s first house after graduating high school, right before attending Royal Military College. He was also the first member of his family to complete University.

For Major Wright, a highlight of his career with the Royal Canadian Air Force is watching his family light up with pride each and every time they get to see “his” helicopter up close. He enrolled as a pilot out of high school and has maintained the same trade path throughout. When asked why he chose the RCAF, his answer came without hesitation. “The true reason I joined the RCAF was because of the movie ‘Top Gun’. I loved that movie as a kid and all I dreamt about was flying and how amazing it must be. Even to this day and after 3500 hours of flying, I still catch myself thinking about how awesome this job is and how fortunate I have been with the career path I have chosen.”

He is currently posted to United States Coast Guard (USCG) Air Station Cape Cod flying the MH60T Jayhawk helicopter. Major Wright says he is amazed to have been “given the opportunity to serve in another country while proudly representing my own; continuing to conduct SAR operations in the beautiful yet unforgiving Atlantic coastline.”

His team conducts maritime search and rescue missions and provides aid to requests for navigation repair and maintenance. They are also tasked with LMR - Living Marine Resource patrols, PWCS - Ports, Waterways & Security patrols, Medevac requests, Homeland Security tasks, and they are called upon to assist other government agencies during law enforcement, disaster relief or other humanitarian missions.

Air Station Cape Cod has been sending crews up each fall to St. John’s, NL to join 103 Squadron’s crews for their maritime extraction exercise, commonly known as Boat Camp, since 2016. These professional exchanges have played a key role in improving interoperability and best techniques, and ultimately led to the successful outcomes we have seen in many recent cases.

Recently, he received his promotion to Major with his teammates in the USCG. The lighthearted ceremony included many references to Canadian-isms that had Major Wright wiping tears of laughter from his eyes. His wife was there to pin the symbol of his new rank on his uniform.

His time at the Air Station Cape Cod has provided many one-of-a-kind experiences, such as landing an MH60T on the Wall Street Pad in NYC, landing for the first time on a rooftop helipad in Boston after a medevac, and working with the United States Secret Service protecting the President and Vice President of the United States.

He is proud of his Jamaican and Korean heritage. When asked about any roadblocks he’s experienced in his career, Major Wright shared his philosophy:

“Out of the many roadblocks, some were easy to simply side step and carry on, while others seemed like never ending battles. Building a routine and attacking each goal one step at a time helped me accomplish things that I originally doubted I could do. Realizing that failure simply indicates that we are not perfect and getting up and trying harder is the only way to overcome the challenges you are presented with. Realizing that you are often your own worst enemy.

Coming to terms that life in the military is often like balancing your bank accounts, in that, the withdrawals are our daily sacrifices, whether it is time with your significant other, time with your kids, location stability, or the probability of missing an important life event due to courses, postings, operational missions or deployments. Too many withdrawals from any account is obviously never a good thing. The deposits are what you put into those accounts. My ‘trade account’ as a pilot would include constant learning, maintaining proficiency, avoiding comfort and complacency. These will continue to allow you to grow as a professional pilot and ensure you return home after completing the task that most civilian pilots would never dream of conducting.

Finally, making sure that all of those deposits outweigh the withdrawals from the family account. When you return home, it is even more important to replenish the family account with time, attention and love. Achieving that happy family account balance is always changing and something that will become more and more important as you navigate your career in the CAF.

We’ve all been there and we all make sacrifices, make those deposits into the applicable accounts so you always balance or exceed what you may be missing aka, your withdrawals. Equally as important, once you reach a goal, set new ones and continue to grow.”  

For Major Wright, every SAR mission where there is a life saved, as well as every failure experienced, contribute to making him better. “Whether it is the 1st or 200th SAR mission, the feeling you have when you are able to bring a loved one home or to a higher level of care resulting in a life saved, is truly amazing.”

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