DIEGO (NNS) -- Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 15 officially transitioned
to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 15 during a ceremony, Nov. 15, at
Naval Air Station North Island.
The "Red Lions" are the latest anti-submarine squadron to make the
transition to a sea combat squadron as part of the Navy's new direction for
the rotary wing community, said Cmdr. Gabriel Soltero, commanding officer of
"The Navy has been moving toward using the MH-60 helicopter as a very
versatile platform," Soltero said. "Part of that included two new
airframes, the MH-60R and MH-60S. As that concept of operations evolved, we
decided to leave the anti-submarine warfare mission to the MH-60R, and the
sensors in that aircraft are quite capable of carrying out that mission. So,
we're still just as capable, if not more, as a rotary wing community. We just
have different aircraft now to carry it out."
The MH-60S Seahawk will replace the SH-60F/H aircraft previously used by
HS-15. Soltero said that the squadron had to undergo extensive training to
prepare to fly and maintain the new aircraft.
"The squadron had to send quite a few Sailors to learn how to work and
maintain the new MH-60S," said Soltero. "Luckily, many of the
systems are similar but some are not. Those that were not similar,
specifically avionics and ordnance, required some new training on the part of
our Sailors. So when we returned from deployment this past May, we took some
time to arrange for our Sailors to receive this training. In addition, our
pilots had to go to undergo training here to learn how to fly the MH-60S."
Aviation Structural Mechanic 3rd Class Rodney Faulk, assigned to HSC-15, was
one of the Sailors who underwent more than five months of training to prepare
for the transition.
"My job has changed a lot because of the new aircraft," Faulk
noted. "There are no more anti-submarine components. It's more
combat-related now. So, there are more weapons systems, which mean more
airframe systems to support those weapons systems. We had to re-qualify on
Despite the new aircraft and some changes to the squadron's mission, they
will continue to perform many of the core missions they have been carrying
out for years, Soltero said.
"We're retaining many of our other mission sets including anti-surface
warfare, naval special warfare support, and combat search and rescue,"
said Soltero. "Those are missions that were part of our core set as an
HS squadron, and we will continue to perform those missions as an HSC
Soltero said he has enjoyed the experience of leading the squadron through
"My very first operational squadron was HS-15, when I was a young
lieutenant, about 15 years ago. To me, it's been a very high honor to be able
to stand up in front of the squadron and lead it through the transition. The
Sailors have done a fantastic job, the pilots are top notch, and there is
really nothing else I would rather be doing."
from the HS-15
ANTISUBMARINE SQUADRON FIFTEEN was commissioned to fly the SH-3 Sea King in
October 1971 at Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, New Jersey. In November 1973,
the squadron moved from Lakehurst to Jacksonville, and in 1992 HS-15
transitioned to the SH-60F and HH-60H Seahawk helicopters. As an aircraft
carrier-based squadron, HS-15 has operated aboard ten East Coast carriers:
USS NIMITZ, USS AMERICA, USS INDEPENDENCE, USS FORRESTAL, USS SARATOGA, USS
ENTERPRISE, USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, USS RONALD
REAGAN and USS JOHN F. KENNEDY.
Over the years, operations have taken HS-15 to the Atlantic, Arctic, and
Indian Oceans, as well as the Adriatic, Arabian, Caribbean, Mediterranean,
and Norwegian Seas. During deployments the Red Lions have long played a role
in U.S. foreign policy and military actions, including Iraq and Afghanistan;
Contingency Operations with the U.S. Multinational Peacekeeping Force in
Lebanon; in combat operations during URGENT FURY in Grenada; in extensive
North Atlantic antisubmarine warfare (ASW) operations with NATO, Operation
PROVIDE COMFORT in Iraq, Operation PROVIDE PROMISE/DENY FLIGHT in the former
Yugoslavia, Operations DECISIVE ENDEAVOR and SOUTHERN WATCH in the Arabian
Gulf, and Operations DELIBERATE GUARD and COOPERATIVE ASSEMBLY supporting
U.S. involvement in the Balkans conflict.
While conducting peacekeeping operations off the coast of Lebanon in 1982,
the Red Lions were specifically tasked with shuttling U.S. Special Envoy
Phillip Habib to and from Beirut as he negotiated a settlement to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. During the USS INDEPENDENCE (CV 62) 1983-84
deployment, HS-15 was deployed as an element of CVW-6. Throughout hostilities
in Grenada, the Red Lions provided combat search and rescue (CSAR) service as
well as small boat interdiction patrols while operating a forward detachment
from the deck of the USS MOOSBRUGGER (DD 980).
The squadron returned to the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean for a last
deployment on USS INDEPENDENCE before reassignment. Embarked in USS
FORRESTAL, the squadron deployed to the Mediterranean Sea in June 1986, and
in August 1987 to the Norwegian Sea as participants in OCEAN SAFARI '87. The
squadron's 1988 deployment took the Red Lions to the Persian Gulf through the
Mediterranean Sea and included an impressive 108 consecutive days at sea.
Among the high points of the deployment was the opportunity to meet the
Commander-in-Chief, President George Bush, prior to his "Summit on the
Sea" with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
Following the first Persian Gulf War, HS-15 returned to Jacksonville and left
CVW-6 with the decommissioning of USS FORRESTAL. HS-15 transitioned in 1992
to the H-60F/H and was subsequently assigned to the CVW-17/USS SARATOGA team.
The Red Lions returned to sea in June 1993, and joined CVW-17 on USS
SARATOGA’s last deployment.
In 1994, the Red Lions moved to USS ENTERPRISE, deploying in 1996 and
participating in Operations DECISIVE ENDEAVOR and SOUTHERN WATCH. In 1997,
HS-15 welcomed its first female aviators and moved to USS EISENHOWER. 1998
found the Red Lions once again on deployment in the Mediterranean Sea and
ended with the squadron receiving the Battle “E” and the Safety “S”.
In 1999, the Red Lions transitioned to USS GEORGE WASHINGTON. The Red Lions
were honored with the Arleigh Burke Award for the most improved squadron,
ship or submarine in the entire U.S. Atlantic Fleet for their outstanding
performance in 1998. In 2000, the Red Lions deployed in USS GEORGE
WASHINGTON, returning just prior to the holiday season.
HS-15 entered the global war on terror on September 12th, 2001, the day after
the tragic terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Within twenty-four hours the Red Lions had four aircraft and over half of
their Sailors aboard USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, in New York City Harbor,
supporting Combat Air Patrols.
Throughout 2002 the Red Lions continued their involvement in the war on
terror. During the first three months of their 2002 deployment in USS GEORGE
WASHINGTON, HS-15 actively participated in operations ENDURING FREEDOM and
SOUTHERN WATCH, providing numerous SAR flights and Combat SAR alerts, enabling
CVW-17 aircraft to constantly provide airpower in support of U.S. ground
forces in Afghanistan. During deployment, the Red Lions also participated in
numerous Coalition exercises with allied countries, including “Med Shark”
with the Moroccan Air Force; “Destined Glory” with the Italian Navy; “Joint
Wings 2002” in Pula, Croatia; and “PHIBLEX 02” over Albania.
Constant training throughout 2003 and the first half of 2004 was followed by
a June through December 2004 deployment on USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV 67) to the
Middle East. The Red Lions logged over 2,000 hours supporting a wide array of
missions, including over 200 sorties supporting Special Operations units in
Southern Iraq, as well as the rescue of six Iranian nationals off their
In 2005 the Red Lions began preparations for the Secretary of Defense
directed, Central Command Navy Air Ambulance combat MEDEVAC mission to
Kuwait. Throughout the year squadron pilots and aircrew completed U.S. Army
Medical Evacuation doctrine schools, flew training missions with Army MEDEVAC
pilots at Fort Rucker, Alabama and successfully completed a Helicopter
Advanced Readiness Program specially designed to earn U.S. Army MEDEVAC
certification prior to deployment. During this unique and intensive training period
the Red Lions also sent a two helicopter detachment on board USS HARRY S
TRUMAN (CVN 75) to assist with the evacuation and rescue efforts in the wake
of the devastation left along the U.S. gulf coast following Hurricane
Katrina. In November, the Red Lions, as the lead squadron, along with the
Island Knights of HSC-25, formed the 2515th Navy Air Ambulance Detachment,
and relieved the 236th Army Air Ambulance Company as the primary MEDEVAC
asset in Kuwait and Southern Iraq. It is with great pride that HS-15 assumed
the long distinguished “DUSTOFF” call sign which is synonymous with all
Medical Evacuation Units.
2006 began with one half of the Red Lions deployed to Kuwait and the other
half continuing MEDEVAC training. In May 2006, the Red Lions deployed their
second detachment to Kuwait to complete the year-long deployment. The
squadron was reunited on Thanksgiving. While deployed the 2515th Navy Air
Ambulance Detachment flew 1,443 sorties, 2,503 hours, and conducted 331
MEDEVACS transporting 324 patients to follow-on medical care. The Red Lions’
tireless contribution in Kuwait and Iraq embodied the DUSTOFF credo “When I
have your wounded” while instilling the Navy Search and Rescue credo “So
Others May Live” in the rich tradition of U.S. Army MEDEVAC.
While the Red Lions did not deploy in 2007, they were still very busy. The
squadron supported Fleet and Training Command operations with eight Carrier
Qualification (CQ) Detachments on board the USS HARRY S TRUMAN, USS DWIGHT D.
EISENHOWER, and the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON. Additionally, with both aircraft
and personnel they assisted sister squadrons HS-3 on a CQ Detachment on board
USS HARRY S TRUMAN, and HS-2 on their HARP Detachments at NAS Fallon and the
U.S. Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center on Andros Island, Bahamas.
In early 2008 the Red Lions joined the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON for Partnership
of the Americas deployment. Later in the year, the squadron was engaged in
training with Naval Special Warfare units across the country. The squadron
had flown to Norfolk, VA and Ft. Knox, KY to integrate and develop its
tactics and establish procedures with the various ground units, with a
potential deployment in support of special operations looming for 2009.
HS-15 was officially tasked with deploying to Iraq in the beginning of 2009
and continued preparation right away. In January HS-15 sent a squadron
detachment to Barstow, Ca to work with the SEAL teams and other USMC units.
From Barstow HS-15 moved to MCAS Yuma to finish a SEAL Team CERT-EX.
The month of February was consumed with preparing four HH-60Hs to travel
aboard two C-5 Air Force aircraft to Balad, Iraq in direct support of
Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component Command. The four aircraft
and 63 personal traveled to Balad to begin operations.
The aircraft landed in Iraq and were flying within 72 hours. The squadron was
tasked with its first mission within a week. The missions were flown
throughout the country, as far north as Mosul, Iraq and as far south as
Najaf, Iraq. After five months of operations, the squadron tallied 455 combat
flight hours resulting in the capture/kill of 21 High Value Targets.
While a portion of the squadron was in Balad, Iraq, the remaining members in
the squadron were continuing to fulfill the shipboard requirement. In July
2009, the squadron detached two H-60 aircraft onboard USS CARL VINSON
(CVN-70) to support a Carrier Qualification Detachment proving its ability to
operate in two separate places with two different mission sets flawlessly.
Upon return from Balad, Iraq the squadron re-integrated and prepared for
multiple inspections spanning each department. HS-15 performed well under
each evaluation and began to prepare for the upcoming SOUTHERN SEAS 2010
deployment in January 2010. In an effort to prepare for shipboard operations,
the squadron proceeded to AUTEC Atlantic Undersea Training and Evaluation
Center in Andros Island, Bahamas to hone their Antisubmarine Warfare skills.
The squadron successfully released four torpedoes on various targets during their
nine day detachment, proving ready for a sea-going deployment. Helicopter
Visit Board Search and Seizure as well as Hellfire employment were also
trained to, rounding out our Sea Combat capabilities. This was the pinnacle
of transition, proving the squadron could operate from an overland desert
environment, to an operational and traditional carrier based helicopter
2010 kicked off with a bang, as the squadron flew five of their aircraft up
to Norfolk to embark on CVN-70 for their SOUTHERN SEAS 2010 deployment. The
Carrier Strike Group’s mission was to deliver USS Carl Vinson to San Diego,
CA battle ready. We were planning on a minimal amount of flying; day one of
the deployment changed that expectation. 12 January, Port au Prince was
rocked with an earthquake and the ship proceeded south to assist. USS CARL
VINSON proceeded at 30 knots for two full days in order to arrive on station.
HS-15 played a crucial role during Operation Unified Response: Haiti as a
major responder. The squadron provided a great deal of that support utilizing
its five embarked SH-60F/HH-60H Seahawk helicopters. The Red Lions crew
launched their first crews into Haiti immediately upon arriving within 50
miles of the island. At the end of the operation, the squadron had flown 323
hours, transporting 135 MEDEVACs, 50 tons of food and 75 tons of water.
The SOUTHERN SEAS deployment continued and the squadron finished with the
execution of 890 flight hours, 324 sorties with a 100% completion rate. HS-15
has proven its valor over the course of the past 18 months, executing its
Primary Mission Areas in an Operational Environment. Whether a Direct Action
mission in Iraq or a MEDEVAC off the coast of Haiti, the Red Lions have
executed as tasked. The squadron was recognized for its efforts in the
calendar year 2009, by receiving the Battle E. This prestigious award is
presented to the aviation squadron in each competitive category that achieves
the highest standards of cost-wise and performance readiness. This award
recognizes a unit’s training and operational achievements while including a
balance that incentivizes efficiency and cost-wise readiness. The HS-15 Red
Lions were the HSCWINGLANT recipient for 2009.