Navy Helo Squadrons Join Forces in Support of Relief Effort
MISAWA, Japan (NNS) - Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 14 (HS-14) and Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light 51 (HSL-51) are continuing their humanitarian support for Operation Tomodachi from Naval Air Facility Misawa (NAFM), March 24.
The squadrons are providing additional rotary force to Navy ships off the eastern-Japanese coastline by transporting humanitarian aid. Their repositioning to NAFM has decreased their time in transit and increased their number of daily missions.
HS-14 and HSL-51 are performing their maintenance and operations from the same hangar bay at NAFM. While it is a unique environment for the squadrons, they say they are happy to be of service.
"It's great to be in Misawa," said Cmdr. Geoff Moore, commanding officer of HS-14 and a native of Middletown, Conn. "The base has been very supportive in receiving us. The base commanders for NAFM and Misawa Air base have been doing a superb job working hand-in-hand helping us get what we need to maintain our aircraft, and accommodating lodging for our people."
"Coming together here, our squadrons are combined on every level. The crews are briefing together, and departments are working in the same office space, we are seeing unparalleled cooperation," he added.
Based out of Naval Air Facility Atsugi, the squadrons' have a cooperative history providing support for the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group and Destroyer Squadron 15. Cmdr. Sil Perrella, commanding officer of HSL-51 and native of Fountain Valley Calif., said he and his crew have received tremendous support since their arrival to NAFM and look forward to their ongoing support of Operation Tomodachi.
"This has been a fantastic opportunity for us to assist in this mission," he said. "In Atsugi, our squadrons work in separate hangars, here that is not the case. We are all one team one fight, pulling together to get the job done and that has my crew excited. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity."
Increasing their productivity and teamwork while at NAFM, Master Chief Aircraft Maintenanceman Gregory "Woody" Behrends, maintenance master chief for HSL-51, said the two squadrons working together has created a bond that will strengthen both sides efforts.
"Integrating the two squadrons had its hiccups at first, but we are molding like a unit now, brothers and sisters, working together for a common good. We know our mission and we are supporting to the best of our abilities, he said. "The support we have been receiving from the Japanese and the base here has been nothing short of outstanding."
For some crewmembers the proximity of working together had its challenges, but according to Aviation Structural Mechanic 1st Class Christian Evangelista, assigned to HSL-51, overcoming those challenges was easy because of the task ahead of them.
"This is a new experience for some of the crewmembers, it is good to see everyone adjusting and making it work" said the Passaic N.J. native. "We all share one common goal, to get humanitarian relief to the Japanese people as fast and safely as we can.
Aviation Electrician's Mate Airman Apprentice Alvin Witt, assigned to HS-14, said he could relate to the needs of the Japanese people affected by the recent natural disaster.
In August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the community of the Beaufort, Miss. native, leaving behind a path of destruction. Witt said working alongside HSL-51 to provide humanitarian aid is something he is proud to be apart of.
"This is my first command, and I feel really good about being here," he said. "I feel good to know that I am here helping better the situation the Japanese are going through. It is much worst than what I went through. For me to give back after something like this happening makes perfect sense."
America's Navy is committed to Operation Tomodachi and supporting our longtime ally. Humanitarian assistance and disaster response is a core competency of the maritime strategy.
For more news from U.S. Naval Air Facility Misawa, Japan, visit www.navy.mil/local/nafmisawa/.