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'Blackjacks' of HSC-21 Take Part in Pacific Partnership 2012

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS120520-01

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Clay M. Whaley, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West

USNS MERCY, At Sea (NNS) -- Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21, the "Blackjacks," is providing mission support for Pacific Partnership 2012 (PP12) aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19).

Flying two MH-60S Knight Hawk helicopters, the Blackjacks will conduct vertical replenishments and airborne transportation for medical, dental, veterinary and civil engineering team members, providing the mission increased capability and operability to provide humanitarian and civic assistance in the host nations of Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia.

"We are here to help transport people and supplies to the mission sites," said Lt. j.g. Dave Lovett, an HSC 21 pilot. Lovett said the aircraft serve as force multipliers by, "expediting (logistical) processes by vertical replenishment, because the aircraft are able to carry heavy loads much faster than a small boat."

During vertical replenishments cargo is moved on a sling beneath the aircraft to either one ship to another, or ship to shore, which will play a key role during PP12.

The Blackjacks not only transport team members and supplies, but they also play a key role in patient transportation.

In order to keep the aircraft functional, a team of six aviation structural mechanics perform daily aircraft maintenance and inspections.

"One of the most important jobs ... to stay mission ready ... is aircraft maintenance to ensure there aren't any mechanical issues," said Aviation Structural Mechanic 3rd Class Thomas A. Stoner.

In preparation to support PP12, the Blackjacks have been obtaining aircraft qualifications and vertical replenishment training aboard Mercy.

"Since we've been aboard the Mercy we've done a lot of flight training to prepare for PP12, so that when we're in country we can transport providers and supplies as quickly and efficiently as possible," said Lovett.

"During one of our previous deployments, we were part of a medical evacuation squadron in Kuwait," said Lt. j.g. Adam Boyd, HSC-21 pilot. "We're bringing the knowledge and experience we've obtained during previous deployments to aid in any way we can."

HSC 21 also participated in Pacific Partnership 2008, and are excited to be part of the humanitarian and civic assistance mission again.

"In the event that there was a host nation citizen who had a significant illness and needs to be transported to the Mercy for immediate medical attention, we will medivac the patient by air," said Lovett.

The seven HSC 21 pilots supporting PP12 have years of combined aircraft experience and knowledge, not only in flying, but also with the medical side of the mission.

Now in its seventh year, Pacific Partnership is an annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance mission designed to work by, with and through host and partner nations, non-governmental organizations and international agencies to build partnerships and a collective ability to respond to natural disasters.

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