by Stacie Lawrence
Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division
May 18, 2018
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Giraud, a naval aircrewman with Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 31 at Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, strives to be the best person he can be and an overall “good dude.” His hard work and efforts haven’t gone unnoticed as Giraud was named the 2017 Naval Air Systems Command Sailor of the Year during a ceremony at Patuxent River, Maryland on January 25, 2018.
“It took me a second to process it all,” Giraud recalled. “We’re sitting there on the stage while Vice Adm. Grosklags is speaking to the crowd and when he finally announced the name of the winner, I was still sitting in my seat. It took me a couple seconds to process it. It was a fantastic experience for me.”
Having grown up in the Bay Area, Giraud and his cousin attended San Francisco’s annual Fleet Week just a couple months after Giraud started community college in 2002. Seeing the ships sail under the Golden Gate Bridge and watching the helicopters fly over, Giraud’s interest in the Navy was piqued. Months later, Giraud rose his right hand and, in the following January, went to boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois. He then transferred to Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida where he completed Naval Air Crew Candidate School, Aviation Rescue Swimmer School, and attended Aviation Machinist’s Mate “A” school, learning how to perform basic maintenance on aircraft engines and drive systems.
“At 18 or at any age, really, it’s daunting to try and figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life,” he said. “But, joining the Navy was, without a doubt, the best decision I’ve ever made.”
In 2004, Giraud served his first fleet tour in Guam on deployment to the Persian Gulf aboard USS Essex (LHD-2). That December, his helicopter squadron received word of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Sumatra and, a month later, was asked to fly in to help. For three weeks, the squadron flew every day for 12 hours from sun up to sun down carrying supplies and basic needs back and forth from the ship to the beach.
“To see the looks on their faces when we showed up and delivered those much-needed supplies brought such joy to, not only me and the rest of the crew, but to everybody that was involved with that mission,” Giraud said. “That’s the moment when I realized that I’m doing something impactful. That was a big moment for me.”
For Giraud, the opportunities to make a difference continued. Twice, he was deployed on the hospital ship, USNS Mercy (T-AH-19). During his tours, he helped carry medical, dental and even veterinary doctors to isolated countries and villages that did not have access to them.
“Honestly, there are days when I look back and think how fortunate I am for the job I was able to choose because I was initially asked to do something different,” Giraud said. “A buddy of mine at the time mentioned the aircrew program and after he told me what they do, I decided that’s what I wanted. Luckily, the Navy was able to allow me to sign up for the program and the rest is, as they say, history.”
In 2015, Giraud joined VX-31 where he currently serves as a Search and Rescue Division lead petty officer. Since being with VX-31 SAR, he’s performed as a Helicopter Inland Rescue Aircrewman and crew chief, Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization evaluator, operations lead petty officer, assistant Drug and Alcohol Program advisor and Full Speed Ahead facilitator.
“In the next couple of months, my family and I are transferring to a helicopter squadron stationed in Atsugi, Japan,” Giraud said. “I tell people all the time, I didn’t get here alone. It took good leaders from day one to show me the ropes and train me on being the best I can be. On the flip side, I’ve had the privilege of leading some of the best people I’ve ever met in my entire life from all walks of life and from all over the country. It’s been quite an honor.”