New MH-60R Squadron Established at North Island

Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 78 ‘Blue Hawks’ was established at NAS North Island, California, on March 1.

A COMMISSIONING ceremony was held on March 1 at Naval Air Station North Island, California, to establish Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 78 ‘Blue Hawks’, the fourth of six planned HSM squadrons.

“The significance of this establishment ceremony is to introduce to our Navy, the public, and soon those across the globe, that the HSM community’s newest MH-60R Carrier Air Wing squadron has arrived,” said Capt Jeffrey W Hughes, commander of Helicopter Maritime Strike Wing Pacific. “We are meeting a significant milestone in its progression to becoming the primary and premiere aviation sea control asset.”

After months of training its pilots and maintenance crews while acquiring all of their equipment and preparing for maintenance inspections, the crewmembers were able to enjoy the benefits of being the first members of the HSM-78 squadron.

“It’s a rare occasion and a great day when a new squadron is commissioned in the Navy, ” said HSM-78 first Commanding Officer Cmdr William Bucey. “And it’s a very unique opportunity to stand up a squadron, I am honoured.”

“I am loving the fact that I get to be a plankowner,” said Aviation Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Marvin Journet. “I’ve been in the Navy for 15 years and this is my first time being a plankowner.” (The term plankowner is used unofficially in the Navy to refer to anyone present at the commissioning of a new ship or, in this case, squadron).

“The Blue Hawks will contribute unique and awesome capabilities to the geographic combat commanders in the Pacific and Central areas of responsibilities to provide necessary influence to global affairs via humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts or through kinetic striking power,” Hughes said. HSM-78 is currently assigned to Carrier Air Wing 17 and is scheduled to deploy aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) in 2014.

HSM-78 will consist of 280 crewmembers, both enlisted and officers, and eleven new MH-60R Seahawk helicopters before their first deployment. “I can say with absolute confidence that they will be ready,” said Hughes. Bucey said all of the other helicopter squadrons are going through the transition of changing from flying SH-60B helicopters to flying the MH-60R model.

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