Tuesday, December 15, 2009

HM-15 Launches Final Flight from NAS Corpus Christi

By Rod Hafemeister, Naval Air Station Corpus Christi

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (NNS) -- The remaining members of Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 15 (HM-15) held up cell phone, digital and video cameras to record the departure of the last squadron MH-53 Sea Dragon to depart Naval Air Station Corpus Christi Dec. 7 for HM-15's new home in Norfolk, Va.

The lift-off of "Hurricane 17" from the sea wall airstrip ended 13 years of mine countermeasure helicopter operations in south Texas.

"HM-15 moved to NASCC in 1996 from Alameda, Calif.," said Senior Chief Jeremy Sturgeon, lead chief for the NASCC detachment. "Now, it's moved to Norfolk. Our mission has not changed at all. The only thing that has changed is our homeport."

HM-15's mission is to maintain a worldwide, 72-hour airborne mine countermeasures (AMCM) rapid deployment posture. It also maintains four MH-53s and 100 Sailors forward deployed in the Arabian Gulf region on a rotational schedule.

The squadron has 14 MH-53 Sea Dragons, the largest helicopter in Western military use.

Hurricane 17's four-man crew – Lt. Cmdr. Ian Wolfe, Lt. Steve Mason, Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 2nd Class Nicholas Reit and Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 3rd Class Mark Covington – were scheduled to follow the Gulf Coast to Destin, Fla., where they would rest overnight before continuing to Norfolk the next day.

That leaves 60 Sailors assigned to HM-15's Corpus Christi detachment, but only a dozen are slated to move to Norfolk.

"The other 48, including me, will be moving to new assignments," Sturgeon said.

HM-15's move to Norfolk is part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission's decisions to consolidate anti-mine warfare on the East and West Coast.

Minesweepers assigned to Naval Station Ingleside, which will close in 2010, moved to California this summer.
Most of HM-15 moved to their new home on the East Coast in September, but a detachment remained at NAS Corpus Christi to close down the operation and prepare Hurricane 17 for flight.

"When it lifted off the ground for the first time in November, there were a lot of cheers," Sturgeon said.