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Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71 “Raptors”

Commander Heather “Bruiser” Thomas

Commanding Officer, Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71

Photo By: 230621-N-CO554-2002.JPG
VIRIN: 230621-N-CO554-2002

CDR Heather “Bruiser” Thomas is a native of Pismo Beach, California and attended the United States Naval Academy.  She was commissioned in 2006 with a BS in History and played Navy Women’s Soccer.  Upon completion of flight training in 2008, she was designated a Naval Aviator and reported to the HSL-40 “Airwolves” for flight training in the SH-60B. 

In 2008, CDR Thomas began her first operational flying tour with HSL-49 “Scorpions” at North Island, California.  She deployed with USS CHANCELLORSVILLE (CG 62) and USS BUNKER HILL (CG-52) supporting OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM, OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM, and counter piracy operations.  She served as First Lieutenant, Auxiliary Resale Officer, Detachment Maintenance Officer, and Quality Assurance Officer.  

In 2012, CDR Thomas reported to HSM-40 “Airwolves” in Mayport, Florida.  She completed the MH-60R transition and served as a dual series (SH-60B and MH-60R) Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) Instructor Pilot.  She held several positions including First Lieutenant Auxiliary Resale Officer, SH-60B and MH-60R Curriculum Officer, SH-60B Functional Check Pilot Program Manager, Aircrewmen Division Officer, and Assistant Training Officer.  

In 2015, CDR Thomas served at HSM-72 in Jacksonville, Florida as a Super JO.   She deployed with USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (CVN 75) supporting OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM. She held several positions including Carrier Element Maintenance Officer, NATOPS Instructor, and Quality Assurance Officer. 

In 2016, CDR Thomas served with HSM-48 “Vipers” in Mayport, Florida as a Department Head.  She deployed with USS FORREST SHERMAN (DDG 98) as AIRBOSS of the “Raging Bulls” supporting OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM.  She served as Safety Officer, Officer in Charge of Detachment THREE, Administrative Department Head, and Operations Officer. 

Following her Department Head tour, CDR Thomas reported to U.S. Central Command’s Directorate of Exercises and Training.  While at USCENTCOM she served as Directorate Executive Officer, exercise planner, and U.S. Navy Element Executive Officer. 

CDR Thomas has accumulated over 3,000 hours in Naval aircraft.  Her personal decorations include the Joint Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal (4 Awards), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and various unit and campaign awards. 


Commander Heather “Bruiser” Thomas

Commanding Officer, Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71

Commander Ken “Spicoli” Petkunas

Executive Officer, Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71

Command Master Chief Myrtis Calhoun

Command Master Chief, Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71

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