Helicopter Combat Support Squadron SIXTEEN [HC-16]
Helicopter Combat Support Squadron SIXTEEN HC-16 provided Search and Rescue support for the Pensacola Naval Training Complex and CNATRA Carrier Qualification Operations until 1 March 1994, when that mission transfered to Naval Air Station Pensacola OMD SAR.
The origins of search and rescue at Pensacola can be found in the early history of the training complex. The first unit was formed at NAS Pensacola to ensure the safety of pilots over both land and water in the local area. This was the beginning of what would come to be known as the LAND SAR unit. LAND SAR was responsible for coverage of the 20 or so landing fields in the area, be they Naval Air Stations or out-lying landing sites. This unit flew the H-25 (HUP), H-19, (HRS) and H-34 (HSS1).
The CVT SAR DET, with a shorter history, can be traced much more accurately. Operationally attached to the USS LEXINGTON and administratively under NAS Pensacola Air Operations, the unit was signed into existence on 27 April 1970. All members of the new detachment were gained from Helicopter Training Squadron EIGHT (HT-8). CVT SAR began operations on 1 June 1970 flying the H-2 "SEA SPRITE." At this time, the unit consisted of three aircraft, five officers and 29 enlisted personnel. Indicative of the reputation they would soon have for being "on the spot" when needed, the SAR DET performed its first plane guard rescue less than two hours after initiating operations with the training carrier.
The merger of the LAND SAR and CVT SAR units occurred on l April 1972 with NAS departmental status achieved on 8 June 1973. A new breed of search and rescue helicopter, the HH-46A "SEA KNIGHT" arrived at Sherman Field on 18 September 1973 marking the inception of an all-weather SAR capability and commencement of a Search and Rescue Training Squadron.
Helicopter Combat Support Training Squadron SIXTEEN (HCT-16) was commissioned on 1 November 1974. Squadron status broadened when HCT-16 was assigned to COMNAVAIRLANT as Helicopter Combat Support Squadron SIXTEEN (HC-16) on 2 May 1977, with the addition of H-46 fleet replacement pilot training. HC-16 was designated the Navy's SAR Model Manager in February 1978 by the Chief of Naval Operations and assumed responsibility for coordinating the Navy's Search and Rescue Program. The squadron's mission was expanded on 7 April 1980 to include the training of fleet replacement pilots, aircrew and maintenance personnel in the H-1N "IROQUOIS" helicopter. With the emergence of single-site FRS training, the H-46 fleet replacement pilot training mission was eliminated in 1983.
In 1985, the squadron's four remaining HH-46's were replaced with five SH-3's. The squadron served as SAR model manager until December 1990. HC-16 completed its last Fleet Replacement Pilot student in September 1993 and transferred the H-1N Fleet Replacement Squadron functions to HMT-303 in October 1993.
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