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Veteran Spotlight: Ramona Hedges United States Navy

October 2022

Today we will be spotlighting Ramona Hedges.

Ramona served in the United States Navy in Aviation Administration, Petty Officer 2nd Class, from 1978-1986.

Ramona has a unique military history. She worked with F14s, C130s, and UH1N helicopters to schedule maintenance, inspections, track time on aircraft components and maintain technical manuals which are used to repair and inspect components on the different aircraft. She served for two years in Norfolk Virginia in the in the Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department (AIMD), two years at Naval Air Station, NAS Miramar in California, and three years at Point Mugu in California as part of Squadron VXE-6 detaching to Christchurch New Zealand and McMurdo Sound Antarctica.

As Ramona tells it, the Navy worked for the National Science Foundation (NSF) in support of Operation Deep Freeze. Scientists from all over the world came there to research meteorological effects on the environment. In 1985 a hole in the ozone was discovered in Antarctica. She was on several helicopter flights carrying the scientists who made this discovery. It was quite exciting, and she learned a great deal about Antarctica.

Her team of servicemembers were tasked with bringing the first two loads of penguins to the San Diego Zoo for their first Penguin exhibit in 1985. She did this flying in a C-130 with 300 penguins at a temperature of 20 degrees below zero! They had three refueling stops, Auckland NZ, Barbers PT HA, and San Diego CA. Each of these three legs of flight were eight hours long, totaling 24 hours, wearing extreme cold weather gear, taking occasional breaks in the cockpit where it was heated.

She recalls the odor was terrible and it was very loud. Penguins complaining and arguing with each other. Many penguins perished, but today’s Penguin exhibit are descendants of those original two flights. This was all voluntary on the premise that the team would get three days liberty in San Diego before returning to Antarctica. Once they returned, they were told they did such a good job that they were going to do it all over again!

“The service instilled in me a strong work ethic. Later in my career working at the Sheriff’s Office this ethic and the military helped me assimilate to law enforcement ethics” shared Ramona.

She was awarded the Antarctic Service Medal and is a member of the “OAE’s” “Old Antarctic Explorers.” Ramona has been a San Luis Obispo County resident since 1987 and is also a member of the American Legion.

Thank you for your service!