US Navy, September 02, 2017 - COLLEGE STATION, Texas by PO1 Ernest Scott – Sailors assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 7 and HSC-28, began transitioning support of Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, Sept. 2, to HSC-21 and HSC-23.
Since arriving in Texas, HSC-7 and HSC-28 flew 49 sorties accumulating 225 flight hours, including 65 hours at night. They combined for 358 rescues while saving 22 dogs, 5 cats, conducting 9 personnel transfers and delivering 1660lbs of water and food.
With the demand of Search and Rescue (SAR) missions decreasing, HSC-21 and HSC-23 are expected to focus largely on logistics support and supply delivery.
“What we are seeing is a shift from SAR, to a relief posture,” said Lt. Steve Niets, a pilot assigned to HSC-28. “Our crews are working together, integrating with each other, and preparing for the swap.”
Although the primary mission may be changing, Lt. Cmdr. Spencer Fishman, the officer in charge of HSC-28, said the squadrons are always prepared to carry out rescue operations.
“Our Sailors are highly trained and always ready to conduct search and rescue,” said Fishman. “Even when we are delivering supplies, our crew is fully prepared to help those in harms way.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Air Force Gen. Lori J. Robinson, commander of U.S. Northern Command, announced during a press conference, Sept. 1, that while many areas are still hazardous, food and water is being continuously delivered to seven major distribution locations.
Ensuring these centers remain stocked is an all hands effort.
“Something we do very well in our squadrons and as a Navy is work as a team,” said Fishman. “We are out there flying, operations is planning, and our maintainers work around the clock to get the job done.”
The full transition of support between squadrons will take approximately 24 hours to complete. During this time, HSC-7 and HSC-28 will share with their replacements region specific logistics and lessons learned.
“These squadrons understand humanitarian relief and [Defense Support of Civil Authorities], it’s something we train for,” said Fishman. “The number one thing we pass on is our lessons learned – who’s the point of contact for specific situations, what’s the battle rhythm you can expect from your team – all the little details that will ensure our turnover is seamless.”
For the Sailors departing, their time in Texas has been a truly memorable experience.
“Everything about this has been so humbling,” said Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class Amber Ford, assigned to HSC-7. “Getting the call at night to leave the next morning was when I realized ‘Ok, this needs to be done.’ You hear it on the news, but being here you see how important this relief is. That, along with how supportive the entire community has been makes me proud to be here and proud to be in the Navy.”