03 June 2010

HSC-22 “Sea Knights” – The Importance of Flexibility


Last week I had the opportunity to visit Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron TWO TWO (HSC-22) based out of NAS Chambers Field in Norfolk. The “Sea Knights” of HSC-22 are an outstanding group of Sailors. They fly the MH-60S helicopter and carry out numerous missions such as vertical replenishment, search and rescue, and anti-surface warfare. As with all my visits to our ships, submarines and squadrons, I was most impressed by the Sailors of HSC-22 and truly enjoyed spending time with them and learning more about their daily activities and what it really takes to get the job done.

One thing in particular that really struck me is the flexibility the Sea Knights have demonstrated in some of our most important and high profile missions. For example, in January of this year a detachment from HSC-22 embarked aboard USS BATAAN on less than 24 hours notice and deployed to Haiti to support the relief effort. In the early days of the operation, they flew nearly non-stop search and rescue missions and evacuated victims with life-threatening injuries. It was the Sea Knights that transported this little girl left abandoned in a box labeled “Don’t throw away” to medical care aboard the USNS COMFORT. As the situation in Haiti evolved, HSC-22 rapidly adapted and transitioned from SAR MEDEVAC duties to distributing relief supplies to Haitian communities. In the first month of operations alone, HSC-22 conducted 137 medical evacuations, delivered over 118,000 pounds of supplies and 85,000 pounds of food and water.

At the very same time the HSC-22 detachment was supporting the relief effort in Haiti, another HCS-22 detachment was embarked in USS FREEDOM (LCS-1) for her maiden deployment (over two years early) to the eastern Pacific. FREEDOM was in the middle of a vertical replenishment operation when she was notified that a drug runner was in the vicinity. The armed HSC-22 MH60S, immediately broke away to pursue the drug boat. When the drug boat refused to heed warning shots, the crew disabled the engines forcing the vessel to stop. FREEDOM’s crew arrived at the scene, boarded the vessel, arrested its crew and seized the contraband. To date, HSC-22 Det 2 and the crew of the USS FREEDOM have seized 3 “go-fast” drug boats and over $100 million in narcotics. These two examples – the Haiti relief operation and counter-narcotics operations – exemplify the sheer versatility of our platforms and our people.
Navy originally designed the MH-60S to perform two primary missions – troop transport and vertical replenishment. Now that we have more “run time” with the MH-60S, our people are unlocking the full potential of this very capable platform to meet our operational needs. Today, the MH-60 has been adapted to twelve missions, including an Armed Helo Kit capable of firing the Hellfire missile – a truly remarkable capability for this platform.

And this is what our Navy has done with each and every one of our platforms. Starting with our first six frigates, our people have adapted our ships, submarines and aircraft to accomplish their missions. For example, Navy originally designed the FFG during the 1970s to provide open-ocean escort of amphibious warfare ships and merchant ship convoys – a mission that they, in fact, have rarely executed. Instead, 35 years later, think about all of the missions those ships have executed that were not part of their original design – maritime interception, counter piracy, counter-drug, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, etc.

What HSC-22 is accomplishing with the MH-60S is what we have done in our past and what we must continue to do in our future. We design our platforms to accomplish a specific set of missions in an anticipated environment – we write a script for how we think the future will play out. When reality deviates from that script – as it always does – our people figure out how to adapt what they have to accomplish what they must.

HSC-22 represents what I believe is the key to our future – smart, well-trained and confident pilots, aircrew and maintainers adapting what they have to get the job done.

Thanks again to the Sea Knights of HSC-22 for the opportunity to visit and learn more about the impressive capabilities your squadron continues to bring to our Navy and our nation.
All the best, JCHjr

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