Thursday, July 26, 2012

HSM-74 'Swamp Foxes' Complete Squadron's First MH-60R Deployed Detachment

By Lt. David Schmitt, Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 74 Detachment 3

USS NORMANDY, At Sea (NNS) -- The "Swamp Foxes" of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 74 Detachment 3 successfully completed the squadron's first MH-60R deployed detachment aboard USS Normandy (CG 60).

HSM-74 embarked Normandy, a Norfolk-based, Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser, in early May to provide helicopter assets in support of the 40th annual Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) and FRUKUS 2012 multinational exercises.

BALTOPS is an annual event to promote mutual understanding and interoperability among forces of partnering nations. During BALTOPS '12, twenty-seven ships from twelve NATO and Partnership for Peace (PFP) countries participated. Additionally, there were more than 20 aircraft from eight NATO and PFP nations participating in this large scale Baltic Sea exercise.

"The opportunity to work with foreign nations in planning and execution is an invaluable learning experience for our junior and more experienced pilots alike," said Lt. Andrew Howerton, HSM-74 operations officer. "More importantly, the ability to hone our skills and tactics in a new environment against unfamiliar platforms provided unparalleled training opportunities and experience to all those involved."

FRUKUS is an annual, multinational training exercise between the countries of France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The Russian navy hosted this year's five day training mission which involved coordination between Normandy, French frigate De Grasse (D612), Russian naval vessel Yaroslav Mudriy (727), and royal navy destroyer HMS York (D98).

"Working so closely with other sailors from around the world was my favorite part," said Aviation Structural Mechanic 2nd Class Brad Hill, a maintainer with HSM-74. "Seeing how we work with other countries, seeing their ships up close, and training with different navies brought a unique international camaraderie."

HSM-74 demonstrated the versatility of the MH-60R to allied nations, flying missions in support of surface surveillance coordination, low slow flyer intercept, maritime intercept operations, photo exercises, VIP passenger transfer flights into prepared landing zones in Lithuania, and cross deck landings aboard Denmark's HDMS Absalon (L 16).

In addition to supporting the events of BALTOPS and FRUKUS, HSM-74 conducted three short-notice medical evacuations into unfamiliar foreign airfields, ensuring fellow Sailors received urgent medical care.

"Embarking Normandy has been a terrific opportunity for our detachment to operate at sea and gain invaluable deployed experience for future operations" said Lt. Cmdr. Matt Baker, officer in charge of HSM-74 Detachment 3.

HSM-74 is stationed at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla. and is one of eight squadrons assigned to Carrier Air Wing 3.