Wednesday, February 18, 2009

HSM-70 Leads New Era In Sea Control

By Clark Pierce, Jax Air News Editor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- The commander of the first East Coast helicopter maritime strike squadron to fly the new MH-60R Seahawk passed his unit's commissioning pennant to commander, Helicopter Maritime Strike Wing, U.S. Atlantic Fleet at the HSM-70 establishment ceremony aboard Naval Air Station Jacksonville Feb. 12.

"Thank you all for joining us today to mark the beginning of a new era in Navy aviation," said HSM-70 Commanding Officer Cmdr. William Walsh. "This is the culmination of extraordinary efforts by literally thousands of people – from our industry partners and fleet introduction team to wing leaders and my highly qualified squadron personnel."

Walsh then read OPNAV Notice 3111.

"Effective 12 February 2009, establish HSM-70 with the directed mission to conduct all-weather sea control operations in open ocean and littoral environments as an integral part of carrier air wing in support of a distributed force with a core on board the CVN and MH-60R detachments on board surface combatants."

"This is a historic day for our Navy helicopter force and NAS Jacksonville. What you see here is our newest Seahawk, flown and maintained by the best-trained personnel in aviation," Capt. Glenn Doyle, commander, Helicopter Maritime Strike Wing, U.S. Atlantic Fleet said, after accepting the commissioning pennant from Walsh. "The MH-60R, or 'Romeo' as we call it, combines the capabilities of the SH-60B and SH-60F with a sophisticated new cockpit, avionics and mission systems. I want to personally thank our friends at Sikorsky Aircraft, Lockheed Martin and their partners for producing the best helicopters in the world."

Doyle also recognized the contributions of the fleet introduction team led by Capt. Thomas Criger, PMA-299 (NAVAIR H-60 Multi-Mission Helicopter Program) led by Capt. Dean Peters, fleet replacement squadron HSM-41 led by Cmdr. Tom Braden, the wing staff and the men and women of HSM-70.

"It is appropriate that our guest speaker [Rear Adm. Townsend Alexander] is not only commander, Navy Region Southeast – but also a Navy helicopter pilot with deep roots in the Jacksonville tri-base area," he said.

"He started flying with HSL-33 in San Diego. Then he did four flying tours with HSL-46 and HSL-40 homeported at Naval Station Mayport. His assignments also included instructor pilot at HSL-40 and commanding officer of HSL-46. In his current position here at NAS Jacksonville, I have no doubt he will take note as more Romeos are delivered to the Spartans."

Alexander delivered his congratulations to Walsh and his Sailors.

"I know you're excited about the opportunities ahead. Today marks a change in the way we fight. The Romeo brings new systems and capabilities to the fleet. Your Seahawks are the most survivable, lethal and reliable ever – projecting enhanced combat power to perform missions of anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, area surveillance and combat identification.

"We've recently witnessed some sundown ceremonies at NAS Jax. Today's ceremony brings some balance and reminds us that life is the inevitable process of change. But, one thing that remains constant is the importance of a well-trained crew. As we cast our eyes to the future, remember the axiom that we recruit Sailors – but we retain families. From what I see, the plank owners of this Spartan family are ready and able to meet the future of Navy aviation," said Alexander.

Walsh said the Spartans are slated to deploy with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 on board the newly commissioned USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77).

"We face many challenges as the first of four CVW-based SH-60R helicopter squadrons homeported at NAS Jacksonville. I know that the men and women of this squadron are ready to meet those challenges head on – and set the pace for those who follow," said Walsh.

HSM-70 consists of 22 officers, 22 chief petty officers and 159 Sailors. When fully operational, the Spartans will be assigned 11 helicopters.