By Lt. Pete Hudson
The ‚ÄòWarrior Legacy‚Äô of HSM-72 Detachment Seven returned home to NAS Jacksonville April 5 after a nine-month deployment.
The Warrior Legacy deployed in support of the maiden voyage of USS Jason Dunham (DDG-109) on June 20, 2012, as part of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (CSG-8), composed of USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69), guided-missile cruiser USS Hue City (CG-66), guided-missile destroyers USS Farragut (DDG-99), USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG-81), and the seven squadrons of Carrier Air Wing Seven (CVW-7).
Flying the venerable SH-60B, the Warrior Legacy participated in 10 operations and exercises spanning from the Black Sea to the Arabian Gulf.
Last July, the detachment participated in Exercise Sea Breeze 2012, the largest multinational maritime exercise in the Black Sea, hosted by the Ukrainian Navy.
In August, Detachment Seven visited Souda Bay, Crete, and Haifa, Israel while supporting Operation Active Endeavour in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Squadron personnel led the NATO fight against piracy utilizing airborne surface search radar, forward looking infrared (FLIR), and electronic support measures to increase the strike group‚Äôs recognized maritime picture.
Following those operations, USS Jason Dunham transited through the Suez Canal and into the Fifth Fleet area of responsibility. October saw the detachment supporting counter piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.
SH-60B crews provided critical support to visually identify contacts of interest at night utilizing FLIR and night vision goggles. Detachment Seven supported CSG and surface action group operations throughout the winter. The unique capabilities of an embarked helicopter detachment were also put on display in the form of vertical replenishment, medical evacuations, and visit, board, search, and seizure missions.
In total, the ‚ÄúWarrior Legacy‚Äù flew 1,150 flight hours supporting various operations in a very dynamic environment. The detachment flew armed escort sorties while transiting the Strait of Hormuz on twelve occasions, providing aerial support for USS Jason Dunham and other surface assets in this contested region.
February saw the completion of the longest underway period for both the ship and detachment:¬† 61 consecutive days, mostly on-station in the Red Sea. In March, the ship began the long journey home. After a well-deserved port visit to Naples, Italy, USS Jason Dunham crossed the Atlantic and returned to Norfolk, Va.
Detachment Seven deployed as one of two final SH-60B detachments from HSL-42. When HSL-42 prepared for its official transition to HSM-72 in January, several personnel exchanges at sea were required to support the conversion to the new MH-60R aircraft.
The Warrior Legacy began its deployment under the leadership of Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Chester and ADC(AW) Zachory Bennett. At the mid-deployment point these positions were entrusted to Lt. Cmdr. Aaron Bomar and ATC(AW/SW) Jason Kelly. Additionally, the maintenance officer, operations officer and two helicopter aircraft commanders turned over underway. The maintenance element, under the continuous leadership of AD1(AW) Edison Mu√±iz was the true ‚ÄúBrut Force‚Äù of the detachment and performed exceptionally well throughout a high operational tempo for more than nine months.
Following multiple extensions in theater, the ‚ÄúWarrior Legacy‚Äù is returning to Jacksonville as the last ever HSL-42 deployed detachment, boasting the following major accomplishments:¬† 1,150 mishap-free flight hours across 390 sorties, 10 enlisted aviation warfare specialist qualifications, four enlisted surface warfare specialist qualifications, and an impressive 83 percent advancement rate.