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HSM 77 Returns Home Following Eight Month Deployment

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS120806-20

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 77 returned to Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI) Aug. 4, following an eight-month deployment to the U.S. 7th Fleet and 5th Fleet areas of operations while assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2.

Members of HSM-77 were welcomed home at the NASNI Air Terminal by family members and fellow squadron members.

"It never gets easier seeing them go, especially since this is my fifth deployment," said Tracy Branch, a military spouse. "But once they return, there's a sort of euphoric experience, and it's great."

Cmdr. Brent Gaut, commanding officer of HSM-77, said the support of family members was crucial throughout the extended duration of the deployment.

"I think the families embraced it and knew we had a job to do in defense of our country," he said. "I want to recognize the families, because without them, there's no way we would be able to do the job we do, they are our heroes for the support and love they give us."

Most of the HSM-77's Sailors were embarked aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), while other, smaller detachments were assigned to USS Cape St. George (CG 71), USS Sterret (DDG 104), and USS Momsen (DDG 92), which makes up Carrier Strike Group(CSG) 9.

During deployment, HSM-77's primary objectives were to conduct anti-surface warfare and anti-submarine warfare missions as well as supporting global overseas contingency operations.

"We conducted a wide range of operations supporting Operation Enduring Freedom," said Cmdr. Richard Whitfield, executive officer of HSM-77. "We made 99 percent of all our scheduled sorties and we're coming back with all 10 fingers and all 10 toes. It was a good deployment for us."

In addition to their primary mission, three HSM-77 detachments assigned to two destroyers and one cruiser enhanced each of the ships capabilities, allowing them to conduct disaggregated operations as part of the international naval coalition, Combined Task Force (CTF) 151.

"We mainly did counter-piracy operations and conducted some theater security cooperation exercises with our allies," said Whitfield. "We took a detachment over to the Fort Victoria, a British auxiliary ship, and did work off the Horn of Africa."

Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class Isaac Garza said it was his first deployment with HSM-77, and that it was a good experience overall, but he's glad to be back home.

"I want to give a shout out to the Saberhawks, we made it! It feels amazing to be home," he said. "I love California."

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