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Blackhawks Sharpen Skills at Panama City

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070210-03
Release Date: 2/10/2007 11:03:00 AM

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ruben Perez, Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 15 Public Affairs

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (NNS) -- The "Blackhawks" of Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 15 based at Naval Air Station (NAS) Corpus Christi, Texas, conducted Airborne Mine Countermeasures training at Naval Support Activity (NSA) Panama City, Fla., from Jan. 27 to Feb. 10.

One hundred twenty active-duty and Reserve personnel from two detachments honed their skills on the MK-105 magnetic influence mine sweeping sled and a deep water mine sweeping system known as A/N-37U. The A/N-37U is a mechanical sweep system, pre-programmed prior to helicopter launch, which is designed to clear deep-water moored mines.

“This is a crew intensive evolution that requires a great deal of coordination and it’s a mission that is very hard to do in Corpus Christi, which is why we come here," said Commanding Officer Cmdr. Robert Bennett.

HM-15 readies MH-53E helicopter air crew and maintenance personnel with exercises that provide valuable operational experience, preparing squadron detachments for deployment at a moment’s notice.

“I am very proud of our Blackhawk team,” said Bennett. “On short notice, the men and women of HM-15 planned and executed a flawless detachment, moving several hundred thousand pounds of equipment from Texas to Florida, and set up operations. This is what we are chartered to do, and they make it look easy.”

This training event consisted of 12- to 14-hour days starting well before dawn with multiple offshore missions and ending after sunset.

MK-105 training, conducted the first week, requires launching and recovering the sleds from a ramp and involves ground, rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) and helicopter crews.

Operating at Panama City provides an opportunity to tow not only the MK-105 but also the AN-37U system.

“The AN-37U is a contingency system, maintained at NSA Panama City, but it has real-world application, so it’s important for our air crew to have operational experience on it,” added Bennett.

“This detachment has performed exceptionally well and NSA Panama City always provides outstanding support with concentrated training on important mission systems,” added Bennett.

Contributing to the detachment’s success are select reservists comprised of pilots and ground crew. In preparing for the exercise, they proved their ability to launch the MH-53E helicopter without active duty personnel assistance.

“These reservists have proven they can do their job well,” said Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Barcomb, HM-15’s reserve component officer in charge. “They’ve provided phenomenal support, and established HM-15 as the finest integrated squadron in the Navy.”

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