from Navy News
NAVAL AIR STATION
NORTH ISLAND, Calif. (NNS) -- More than 500 Sailors, former unit members, and
family attended the disestablishment ceremony Dec. 3 for Helicopter Combat
Support Special Squadron (HCS) 5 aboard Naval Air Station North Island.
The ceremony served to commemorate the past missions of HCS-5 and the
official end of activities for the specialized Reserve helicopter squadron.
"Today we disestablished the Navy's most combat effective helicopter
squadron of the past 30 years," said Cmdr. Patrick Baccanari, the unit's
Established in 1988, HCS-5 was a Naval Air Reserve Squadron under Commander,
Helicopter Wing Reserve, San Diego, and Naval Air Reserve Force, New Orleans.
The squadron, which was composed of selected and full-time support
Reservists, flew the HH-60H Seahawk helicopter primarily for combat search
and rescue, and to support Sea, Air, Land (SEALs) and other special warfare
HCS-5, along with its sister squadron, HCS-4, were the only Navy squadrons
that perform both combat search and rescue and special warfare support as
their primary missions.
The keynote speaker was former HCS-5 Commanding Officer, Capt. Dan Pinkerton,
who spoke proudly of the lineage and the history of the unit. Pinkerton had
served in various division officer tours for Vietnam-era Helicopter Attack
(Light) Squadron (HAL) 5, the precursor to HCS-5.
During his speech, Pinkerton saluted all the men and women who had served in
the unit, past and present. He ended his speech with an emotional goodbye and
the words, "Born in combat, standing down in combat. We did our
The disestablishment is part of the Naval Air Reserve's plan to reshape its
aviation forces. The "Firehawks" filled a role shared by its sister
squadron, the Norfolk, Va.-based "Red Wolves" of HCS-4, which also
is slated to be disestablished.
"This ceremony marks a transition for our Sailors, but we are not losing
the capability nor the talent of our people," said Rear Adm. Jeffrey
Lemmons, vice commander, Naval Air Forces. "They will go on to serve in
other units and keep this mission alive, and their skill sets
Guests at the ceremony included Sailors from the early days of Helicopter
Attack (Light) Squadron 3, HAL-5, and HCS-5. Many used this opportunity to
reunite with old friends and reminisce about the "old days."
"I am glad to be here," said Dennis Russell, a former HCS-5 member
who flew in from El Paso, Texas. "I am lucky to have served with such
Some felt the bond to the unit very strongly and got emotional when they
spoke of their feelings about the disestablishment.
"As a junior Sailor in the unit, I got to work with people who had
combat experience in Vietnam," said Aviation Warfare Systems Operator
1st Class Shawn Porter. "They took me in and showed me how to do things
right. I will never forget them. The experience I gained here will be with me
for the rest of my Navy career."
Aviation Structural Mechanic 1st Class Richard Sanchez, a member who had been
with the unit for 15 years, said that this has been the best unit he has
worked with and they have proved what they can do for the Navy.
"I see the same pride and dedication to service in the Sailors today
that we had during the days of Vietnam. This unit is the best of the
best," said Aviation Electrician's Mate 2nd Class Mike Dobson, a member
of HAL-3 "Seawolfs," the grandfather of HCS-5.
Capt. James Iannone, commodore of Helicopter Wing Reserve San Diego and New
Orleans, summarized his thoughts about the unit after the ceremony.
"When I think of this unit, I think of the words, 'The many have come to
rely on the few.' These men and women are the proud few who stand together
and have served whenever and wherever they are called," Iannone said.
Earlier this year, the Firehawks received the Navy Unit Commendation for
exceptionally meritorious service from March 2003 through April 2004.
During this period, the squadron completed more than 1,700 combat flight
hours and 900 combat air missions in direct support of U.S. and multinational
special operations forces in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
After reading the orders of disestablishment and words of goodbye from their
commanding officer, the Sailors of HCS-5 were dismissed by the executive
officer. The Sailors filed out proudly and silently to begin a new chapter in