Tuesday, March 17, 2009

HS-15 To Support Special Warfare In Iraq

By Clark Pierce, Jax Air News

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- The commanding officer of Helicopter Squadron (HS) 15 addressed the unconventional, land-based deployment of HS-15 in support of joint special operations units in Iraq.

The six-month mission involves 70 aircrew and maintainers who will operate four HH-60H Seahawk helicopters from a combined special forces base in the vicinity of Baghdad.

"Regardless of our assigned mission, the Red Lions are trained to provide the right aircraft, in the right configuration, with the right crews – at right-on readiness," said HS-15 Commanding Officer Cmdr. Chris Misner in an interview Feb. 25 at his hangar office at Naval Air Station Jacksonville.

"In 2008, our squadron leaders saw potential to deploy outside of the traditional FRTP (Fleet Readiness Training Plan) deployment cycle and utilize our assets to support NSW (Navy Special Warfare) in an innovative manner," said Misner. "We consulted with our brethren, the 'Red Wolves' of HSC-84 at NS (Naval Station) Norfolk, Va. They are a Naval Reserve Helicopter Sea Combat squadron and the only one dedicated to NSW support. As a result, we mapped out our training plan that involved exercises with a number of Navy SEAL teams based on both the East and West coasts."

Misner explained that no new mission skillsets were required.

"Our aircrews are well-versed in the HH-60H's primary mission of combat search and rescue, NSW support, anti-surface warfare, medical evacuation and logistics support. For this deployment, we naturally concentrated our training on NSW support, which includes clandestine missions against high-value targets utilizing night-vision devices. In fact, our people will rarely see the light of day. Every mission will take place under the cover of darkness."

Last fall, the Red Lions conducted insert-and-extract operations in Virginia with SEAL Team 10. At Fort Knox, Ky., they conducted intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance and call-for-fire missions with SEAL Team 2.

In 2009, the squadron flew four Seahawks across the country to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. for counterinsurgency training missions in the Mojave Desert. The detachment also supported SEAL Team 7 in its pre-deployment certification exercise. From Fort Irwin, the detachment flew to Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Ariz., to support SEAL Team 1 in low-light missions. Red Lion pilots also experienced desert brownout conditions similar to those they'll encounter in the deserts of Iraq.

One new requirement for maintainers was small-arms weaponry school and certification at the Florida National Guard's Camp Blanding Joint Training Center near Starke, Fla.

Two C-5 Galaxy transports - the largest aircraft in the Air Force inventory - will fly the Red Lions' helicopters, equipment, parts and personnel from NAS Jax to Iraq. HS-15 Executive Officer Cmdr. Larry Getz is officer in charge of the detachment.

In Iraq, the Red Lions will report to Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component Commander. They will share the flight line with four HH-60Hs of HSC-84, as well as Army units flying the UH-60 Blackhawk.