Commander David Bean ’82
Pilot, United States Navy
This profile originally appeared in Bowdoin magazine, Vol. 73, No. 2, Winter 2002
On the evening of October 7, 2001, David Bean piloted his H-60 Seahawk helicopter from the deck of the USS Carl Vinson somewhere in the Arabian Gulf. "As my crew and I provided search and rescue support for Air Wing Eleven assets conducting routing flight operations," he tells it, "we had a front-row seat to cruise missile launches from a group of ships in our immediate vicinity. While the bright flashes lit up the moonless sky, I realized that we were witness to an historical event."
Harboring a desire to fly from an early age, Dave considered one of the service academies before deciding to attend Bowdoin. "Interestingly enough," he remembers, "during my first month at Bowdoin, my dorm proctor at Baxter house, Edward 'Jay' Butler '79, was applying for a Naval aviation program, and introduced me to it as well. Though I wasn't able to register for the program until after my sophomore year, the seed was planted!"
As Executive Officer (second in command) of Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron Six (HS-6), currently at war, Dave's "typical" schedule aboard the Carl Vinson has been laid aside; combat training time has been supplanted by actual combat deployment. Dave spends an average of six to seven hours a day in flight and related activities (planning, briefing, debriefing), and tries to find time each day to exercise. The rest of his waking hours are spent taking care of the sailors under his command, counseling, doing paperwork, and visiting with them.
Twenty years into his military career, it is safe to say that Dave Bean enjoys his job. "The best part is the working with people who love what they're doing," he says, "people who are proud to be supporting their nation in an absolutely essential way, and watching those people, many of whom are 18-21 years old, grow and mature through the process." However, there are distinct disadvantages to this career as well.
"The worst part of the job is the family separations. I miss my wife and sons, and this deployment has been especially difficult-missed two birthdays, a wedding anniversary, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's. Thank goodness my wife is so understanding."
Dave's current deployment aboard the Vinson (it is his second, the first came in 1994) began in July 2001. The ship and crew, including Dave's shipmate, Lt. Kim Donahue '80, returned home to a rousing welcome on January 23, keeping to their six-month deployment schedule.
"There's an old saying in the military that your best assignment is usually the last one. In my case, I'd trade my next paycheck to be able to stay with HS-6 for an extra year," says Dave. "I will take command of the unit this spring. Aviation command is something most folks can only dream of-15 months of fun, excitement, and tremendous satisfaction. Those who have been here and moved on will state unequivocally that this is the best job around. I agree."