Sailors assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) and Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 70 worked together to land four MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopters on Ford’s flight deck while the ship was moored at Naval Station Norfolk, Aug. 30.
HSM-70, stationed in Jacksonville, Florida executed the rare, pier-side fly-on to quickly enable follow-on operations during Independent Steaming event (ISE) 12, while ensuring the health of the crew during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
While underway, HSM-70 is able to provide logistic support, conduct search and rescue operations, execute plane guard and conduct unit specific training while Ford completes carrier qualifications and other ISE evolutions.
Lt. Cmdr. Joey Kühn, from Moorpark, California, HSM-70’s officer in charge, explained how HSM-70 and Ford’s crew work to seamlessly integrate with one another.
“This underway we’re doing training, that’s our primary focus while we’re out here, as well as to work with the ship to get the MH-60 Romeo Sea Hawk helicopter integrated with the carrier,” said Kühn. “When it comes time to start doing work ups, we will have the muscle memories of doing anti-submarine warfare and sub-surface warfare to support Ford.”
Lt. Bryant Henderson, from Jacksonville, Florida, a pilot assigned to HSM-70, explained how flying onto the ship in-port made it easier for his squadron to keep a “bubble-to-bubble” mindset while embarking the ship.
“You’ve got half your squadron on the ship, you’ve got your crews that are trying to figure out where to stay out in town and you got stuff to carry with you. That’s what we would usually do,” said Henderson.
Henderson went on to say, “we flew onto this ship pier side so that no squadrons were intermingling, so it feels like it’s more of the bubble-to-bubble to get us safely onboard and it seemed to work out very, very well.”
While many HSM-70 pilots have flown on and off Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, Henderson said this is only his second time flying with Ford, and the professionalism is outstanding.
“It’s amazing to see the professionalism and how the Ford makes us feel welcomed,” Henderson said. “Everybody being ready at the time they told us. Everybody was on the same page. It seems like the Ford’s crew makes these very hard tasks seem very benign because of the execution.”
Ford is underway in the Atlantic Ocean conducting Independent Steaming Event 12 of 18, as part of the ship's Post-Delivery Test and Trials phase, scheduled to continue through mid-2021.
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