Helicopter Combat Support Squadron Eighty Five
HC 85 Golden Gators
Helicopter Combat Support Squadron Eighty Five has the Mission of providing Fleet Contributory Support for target launch, target/torpedo recovery and utility operations in support of the Southern California Offshore Range. They conduct ground and all-weather flight operations; both sea based and shore based search and rescue to include plane guard for amphibious ships; are capable of performing logistical support, including transfer of cargo, personnel and medical evacuation; and provide emergency disaster assistance and evacuation.
The Squadron is slated to replace H-3s with CH-60s in the near future. HC 85 has flown the Sikorsky H-3 Sea King helicopter in the performance of its mission for the last 28 years in 4 configurations. The squadron began with the SH-3A model, worked its way through the SH-3D and SH-3H, and currently employs the UH-3H.
The command is comprised of approximately 270 personnel, including 120 Training and Administration of Reserves (TAR) personnel and 150 Selected Reserve (SELRES) personnel. This integrated team of professionals is comprised of 235 enlisted personnel and 35 officers.
Along with continued support of the SCORE training facility, the Squadron has taken on a new responsibility and mission. Due to environmental sensitivity issues on San Clemente Island, HC-85 is now tasked with providing airborne firefighting capabilities. This means flight crews have now become qualified using "Bambi" buckets in order to help keep wildfires on the island under control. Along with ASW target launch & target/torpedo recovery mission the Squadron has also branched further out into the area of airborne drone recovery and often head north to NWS Point Mugu on a variety of support missions. HC-85 doesn't limit services to just recovering inanimate objects though, we're always available for Search And Rescue (SAR) as well. In fact several flight crews have been instrumental in a number of SAR and MEDEVAC situations in 2000.
In addition to providing a local SAR asset in the Southern California area, HC-85 also provides plane guard / SAR support for a variety of aircraft carriers operating off the West Coast. These missions generally take the form of short, 1 to 2 week detachments and have taken the Squadron from as far north as Seattle to the sunny beaches of Mazatlan and Acapulco, Mexico. In 2000 the Squadron completed a two-month detachment in Hawaii the Rim-Of-The-Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, a detachment to the Whidbey Island area (Seattle, WA) in Fall 2000. Another carrier DET was conducted in the early spring 2001. Services during such detachments aren't limited to simply SAR support, but include such missions as aerial photography, personnel / VIP transport, and mail/cargo delivery. The Squadron even transported live sea lions on a couple of occasions. To top it off, Hollywood has even requested HC-85 services for such productions as the motion pictures Apollo 13 and A Thousand Men and a Baby, and an episode of the television series J.A.G.
Helicopter Combat Support Squadron Eight Five (HC 85) was established as Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Eight Five (HS 85) on 01 July 1970 at Naval Air Station (NAS) Alameda, CA. HS 85 became HC 85 on 01 October 1994, reflecting a change in squadron mission from ASW to Combat Support. HC 85 takes great pride in the exceptionally high experience level of its pilots, aircrew and support personnel. Our expertise, diverse qualifications and maturity are unmatched by active fleet squadrons. HC 85 has been called upon on numerous occasions to provide ASW, Search and Rescue, and logistical support to fleet activities. We have performed these services with dedication and professionalism which matches or exceeds our fleet counterparts at a fraction of the cost.
In 1993, HS 85 moved from NAS Alameda to NAS North Island to assume the Target Launch and Target/Torpedo Recovery mission at Naval Auxiliary Landing Field (NALF) San Clemente Island, CA upon the decommissioning of Helicopter Combat Support Squadron ONE. The UH-3H aircraft are used to support ASW training on the Southern California Offshore Range (SCORE) in support of Commander, THIRD Fleet operations. HC 85 aircraft and crews routinely launch and recover MK-30 mobile ASW targets, MK-46, MK-50 and MK48 torpedos. Our successful execution of this mission, utilizing SELRES personnel, is a tremendous monetary savings to the Navy and further demonstrates the significant role the reserves are ready and capable of playing in today's Navy.
HC 85 supports a 2 or 3 aircraft, week-long detachment at NALF San Clemente Island, CA 48 weeks a year. With our 100 percent mission completion rate, and an aggressive flight schedule at "Home guard," we are one of the busiest helicopter squadrons in the Navy.
Operationally, HC 85 has participated in exercises with Canada, New Zealand, Mexico and Australia. We also typically support operations with 20 to 30 different naval vessels annually. HC 85 also supported the filming of the Academy Award winning movie "Apollo 13", appearing in numerous scenes during the astronaut recovery phase.
Safety achievements include receiving the CNO Safety Award in 1972, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997, while compiling over 53,000 hours of class "A" mishap free flight time over 24 years. HC 85 was awarded the 1996 Meritorious Unit Commendation and has received the Noel Davis Battle "E" Award in 1986 and 1996.
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