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PACIFIC OCEAN (May 19, 2012) - Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21 (HSC-21), the “Blackjacks,” is providing mission support for Pacific Partnership 2012 (PP12) aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19).
Flying two MH-60S Knight Hawk helicopters, the “Blackjacks” will conduct vertical replenishments and airborne transportation for medical, dental, veterinary and civil engineering team members, providing the mission increased capability and operability to provide humanitarian and civic assistance in the host nations of Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia.
“We are here to help transport people and supplies to the mission sites,” said Lt. j.g. Dave Lovett, an HSC-21 pilot. Lovett added that the aircraft serve as force multipliers by, “expediting (logistical) processes by vertical replenishment, because the aircraft are able to carry heavy loads much faster than a small boat.”
Vertical replenishment moves cargo on a sling beneath the aircraft to either to one ship to another, or ship to shore, which will play a key role during PP12.
“Blackjacks” not only transport team members and supplies, but also play a key role in patient transportation.
In order to keep the aircraft functional, a team of six aviation structural mechanics perform daily aircraft maintenance and inspections.
“One of the most important jobs … to stay mission ready … is aircraft maintenance to ensure there aren’t any mechanical issues,” said Aviation Structural Mechanic 3rd Class Thomas A. Stoner.
In preparation to support PP12, the “Blackjacks” have been obtaining aircraft qualifications and vertical replenishment training aboard Mercy.
“Since we’ve been aboard the Mercy we’ve done a lot of flight training to prepare for PP12, so that when we’re in country we can transport providers and supplies as quickly and efficiently as possible,” said Lovett.
“During one of our previous deployments, we were part of a medical evacuation (medivac) squadron in Kuwait,” said Boyd. “We’re bringing the knowledge and experience we’ve obtained during previous deployments to aid in any way we can.”
“Blackjacks” of HSC-21 also participated in Pacific Partnership 2008, and are excited to be part of the humanitarian and civic assistance mission again.
“In the event that there was a host nation citizen who had a significant illness and needs to be transported to the Mercy for immediate medical attention, we will medivac the patient by air,” said Lovett.
The seven HSC-21pilots supporting PP12 have years of combined aircraft experience and knowledge, not only in flying, but also with the medical side of the mission.
Now in its seventh year, Pacific Partnership is an annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance mission designed to work by, with and through host and partner nations, non-governmental organizations and international agencies to build partnerships and a collective ability to respond to natural disasters.
For more information about the PP12 mission, please visit the Pacific Partnership Blog or engage with Pacific Partnership on Facebook and Twitter.