US Navy, June 14, 2022 - PHILIPPINE SEA by PO2 Askia Collins - The Golden Falcons of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 12 led a Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 5 team in a helicopter visit, board, search and seizure (HVBSS) drill that took place aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG 65), June 9.
HSC-12 led this event to expand their proficiency in HVBSS, integrate CSG-5 warfighting assets, and coordinate command decisions through clear communication.
Participating units included HSC-12, the Saberhawks of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 77, and the Royal Maces of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 27, all representing Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, joining with Benfold Sailors, technicians from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit (EODMU) 5, and watch standers from both Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, and Commander, Task Force (CTF) 70.
“The Golden Falcons take pride in their integration and the capabilities we bare for the Strike Group in our motto of getting ripped: Recover, Protect, Deliver,” said Cmdr. Jonathan Dorsey, commanding officer of HSC-12. “HSC-12 is focused on building familiarity and proficiency with our EOD teammates, DESRON 15, and partners within the Strike Group; lending to the precise coordination needed to deliver assault teams during this HVBSS. The participation of all units within CTF-70 during these complex events help to showcase our interoperability, refine our edge, and provide flexibility as the First to Fight.”
The exercise began with a cross-deck evolution where an MH-60S Seahawk, attached to HSC-12, delivered an EOD team from the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) to Benfold.
“We are trained and qualified on helicopter insertion techniques, such as fast rope, which means we can provide more realism for HSC-12’s combat helicopter training,” said the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Petty Officer 1st Class who led the EOD team during the exercise and remains unidentified to maintain operational security. “We support VBSS by providing detection and identification of explosives and hazardous materials, counter explosives tactics, sensitive site exploitation (SSE), and humanitarian assistance.”
The scenario involved a VBSS team from the Benfold conducting a search of a suspicious vessel, and during the search required assistance from an EOD team to conduct SSE of items found.
The EOD team says that anytime they conduct helicopter operations it is a chance to maintain currency and increase proficiency. The event was an opportunity for the team to work on strike group integration. In the past, EOD teams have done fly away missions to other ships in the strike group to conduct diving operations and respond to incidents.
Benfold’s dedicated VBSS team conducted a Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) excursion in order to simulate disembarking from the destroyer and boarding another vessel for investigation.
“VBSS drills ensure our team is always ready to perform when called upon as part of Maritime Interception Operations (MIO),” said Lt. j.g. William Watkins, Benfold’s Anti-Terrorism and Safety Officer. “This is especially important in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) where we frequently operate in support of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) tasking that often involves the tracking of vessels suspected of carrying illicit cargo. Benfold’s VBSS team trains for both compliant and non-compliant boarding, and is able to perform tasks ranging from bio-metric data collection to detainee handling.”
HSC-12, and the various squadrons attached to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, are embarked aboard Ronald Reagan executing strike group tasking.
Benfold, is attached to DESRON 15, the Navy’s largest forward-deployed DESRON and U.S. 7th Fleet’s principal surface force and is operating as part of the strike group.
U.S. 7th Fleet exercises operational control of its units through designated Task Forces or Task Groups. These groups are organized along domain and functional lines. CSG 5/CTF 70 is theater strike warfare commander and theater air and missile defense commander.
CTF 70 is forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific. U.S. 7th Fleet is the largest forward-deployed fleet in the world, and with the help of and network of alliances and partners from 35 other maritime nations, the U.S. Navy has operated in the Indo-Pacific region for more than 70 years; providing credible, ready forces to help preserve peace and prevent conflict.