HM-14, flying the MH-53E Sea Dragon, is one of the largest and most unique squadrons in the Navy. It is one of two squadrons Navy-wide that have integrated an Active Duty airborne mine countermeasures squadron with it’s Reserve counterpart, with approximately 400 Active Duty and 250 TAR and Selected Reserve personnel. The "Vanguard" of HM-14 is capable of rapidly deploying and operating to any part of the world within 72 hours via Air Force C-5s.
HM-14 was established on 12 May 1978, at Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Virginia. An independent and self-contained operational Airborne Mine Countermeasures (AMCM) Squadron, today the Vanguard consists of approximately 650 enlisted personnel and 50 officers, and is home ported in Norfolk, Virginia. Using the USAF C-5A "Galaxy" and C-141 "Starlifter" transport aircraft, the squadron is capable of providing a rapid response mine countermeasures (MCM) capability to any location in the world where a mine threat may exist. The aircraft used by the squadron in its MCM operations is the Sikorsky MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter.
Since it's establishment, HM-14 has conducted a multitude of operations at home and abroad. In 1978, the squadron participated in exercise OLIVES NOIRES off the coast of Toulon, France and in exercise CRAZY HORSE near La Spezia, Italy. In April 1980, the squadron embarked on USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (CVN 69) and deployed to the Indian Ocean for operation EVENING LIGHT during the Iranian hostage crisis. Elements of the squadron remained in the Indian Ocean until November 1980, when the main body of the squadron rejoined the detachment and established the first AMCM capability in the Indian Ocean/Arabian Gulf theater.
In April 1981, the squadron deployed to Europe for 5 1/2 months as the AMCM element of the first integrated MCM Task Group, along with surface and underwater MCM units. HM-14 earned two Meritorious Unit Commendations during this period.
During 1982, HM-14 participated in two major exercises: OCEAN VENTURE ‘82 at NAS Jacksonville, Florida, and CANUS MARCOT 1-82 at Canadian Forces Base Shearwater, Nova Scotia, and Canada. The Squadron was the recipient of the 1982 Battle "E" Award and the CNO Safety Award. Exercises and AMCM demonstrations in Belgium, Scotland, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Portugal, Japan, Philippines and South Korea graphically demonstrated to NATO Allies that the U.S. Navy is capable of countering diverse mining threats anywhere in the world. In June 1984, HM-14 took delivery of the AN/AQS-14 Mine Hunting Sonar and established the Fleet’s first operational airborne mine hunting capability.
In August 1984, the squadron responded to a JCS-directed rapid deployment order in support of operation INTENSE LOOK. HM-14 conducted split site AMCM operations in the Gulf of Suez in support of the Egyptian Government, and in the Red Sea in support of the Saudi Arabian Government. During this period, HM-14 also responded to provide vertical onboard delivery (VOD) support following the Beirut embassy annex bombing. For its performance during these operations, the squadron was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation and the Humanitarian Service Medal.
In August 1987, the Squadron executed another JCS-directed rapid deployment order operating off the USS GUADALCANAL (LPH-7) and USS OKINAWA (LPH-3) in the Arabian Gulf as part of Operation EARNEST WILL. During these operations, HM-14 was credited with the first live moored mines swept by a U.S. Navy unit since the Korean Conflict. As a result of superb performance in the hostile and extremely demanding environment of the Arabian Gulf, HM-14 received the Navy Unit Commendation.
In October 1990, HM-14 deployed to the Arabian Gulf for Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM. Maintaining a nine month presence in the Arabian Gulf staged in Abu Dhabi, UAE and later aboard USS TRIPOLI (LPH-10) and USS NEW ORLEANS (LPH-11), HM-14 flew 5315 hours clearing over 768 square miles of Iraqi-mined Gulf waters. Together with the surface and explosive ordnance disposal elements of the U.S. MCM Group, these actions re-established mine free passage for commercial and military shipping in the North Arabian Gulf and renewed commerce into and out of Kuwait. For the Vanguard’s accomplishments, the Squadron earned the Navy Unit Commendation and Combat Action Award.
In January 1992, HM-14 rapidly deployed via self-lift to Atlantic City, New Jersey, for Operation TOXIC LOOK. Searching for several containers of hazardous arsenic which were swept over the side of a cargo ship during high seas, the Squadron successfully located the entire spillage area within six days of intense AQS-14 operations. The TOXIC LOOK detachment was awarded the Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Award for this action.
In January of 1993, HM-14 participated in the first integrated exercise at Naval Station Ingleside, Texas. In March, HM-14 deployed to Northern Europe aboard USS INCHON (LPH-12) to participate in NATO Exercise BLUE HARRIER ‘93.
In March 1995, HM-14 completed an unprecedented integration with their Naval Reserve sister squadron, HM-18. Given the CNO directive to integrate at the squadron level, HM-14 developed a model plan with HM-18 to combine material assets and nearly 700 Regular, TAR and Selected Reserve personnel, becoming the first squadron in the Atlantic Fleet to integrate in such a manner. This achievement, combined with the squadron’s participation in four major MCM exercises, FRS training and Fleet Support services, set the standard in AMCM and Air Logistics excellence and culminated in the awarding of the 1995 Battle "E" and CNO Safety Awards.
From March to June 1996, HM-14 participated in two major NATO exercises: WESTLANT MCMV Phases I, II, & IV and CJTFEX 96 (Purple Star). These exercises employed separate detachments in Charleston, South Carolina, New River, North Carolina, Halifax, Nova Scotia, and split site operations on the USS SHREVEPORT (LPD-12) and at New River, North Carolina, over a four month period. In November 1996, HM-14 began the initial work-up cycle training with the newly configured MCM command ship USS INCHON (MCS-12). Training continued in January 1997 followed by deployment of an integrated MCM task force to the North Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea in support of "EURO 97". During this deployment, HM-14 towed over 5000 linear miles, playing a pivotal role in three major NATO exercises: BLUE HARRIER ‘97, OLIVES VERTES and ALCUDRA.
From May to June 1998, HM-14 again embarked on INCHON for training and participation in GOMEX 98 and NATO Exercise UNIFIED ENDEAVOR/MARCOT 98 supporting amphibious exercises in Saint John’s Bay, Newfoundland.
1999 was a busy year as the squadron established the first permanent forward-deployed AMCM detachment in the Arabian Gulf. In addition to the Bahrain detachment, the Vanguard participated in exercise KERNEL BLITZ off the coast of California, provided relief in Kosovo during Operation Shining Hope, provided support for the salvage of EgyptAir 990, and provided humanitarian support in the wake of Hurricane Floyd.
In the year 2000, HM-14 participated in tasking that included VOD support and AMCM exercises, ARABIAN GAUNTLET and Coordinated Exercise LATE SAIL in the Arabian Gulf, and operations throughout the continental United States, such as MERCURY/GOMEX 2000-2 in the Gulf of Mexico and JTFEX 2000-2 in the Atlantic.
In 2001, HM-14 began conducting, in conjunction with Airborne mine Countermeasures and Weapons Systems Training School (AWSTS), all replacement aircrew training for the MH-53E. The squadron also participated in exercises ARABIAN GAUNTLET, CASUAL GANDERI and supported the fleet following the terrorist attacks of September 11th during Operations NOBLE EAGLE and ENDURING FREEDOM.
The year 2002 was as exceptional as it was busy for HM-14. Flying over 5,000 hours in fiscal year ’02 the command participated in both a JTFEX and a MEUEX in support of a Carrier Battle Group and a Marine Expeditionary Unit deployment. In Bahrain, Det-1 continued to sharpen mine countermeasures effectiveness through participation in MIREM-20. Det-1 was hand picked by Fifth Fleet to transport the Vice President within the Arabian Gulf theatre. The Vanguard continued to lead the way introducing the enhanced digital imagery of the Q-24 sonar and laser line scan to fleet operations. During the Neptune Air Show at NAS Oceana HM-14 transported both the British Red Devils and the U.S. Army’s Golden Knight to 10,000 feet for parachute jumps. In support of joint operations, the Vanguard recovered an unmanned aerial vehicle from United Arab Emirates for the U.S. Air Force. HM-14 aided the local Heron population by airlifting nest-building supplies to Bloodsworth Island in the Northern Chesapeake bay.
In 2003, HM-14 conducted AMCM, troop insertion, and VOD missions in support of operation IRAQI FREEDOM. Together with surface and underwater MCM units, HM-14 cleared vital waterways and seaports in Southern Iraq, allowing US Forces and necessary humanitarian aid to enter the country.
In 2004, HM-14 greatly expanded its capabilities by adding the AN/AQS-24 sonar and the Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS) to its array of AMCM equipment. Using AMNS, HM-14 crews can reacquire, engage, and detonate a mine without endangering any ships or EOD personnel.
In 2005, HM-14 conducted humanitarian relief operations in support of Operation NEW HORIZON for the poverty-stricken island of Haiti. Later that year, HM-14 supported hurricane relief operations by embarking three aircraft aboard the USS IWO JIM.A as part of the Joint Task Force KATRINA and RITA. With the damage to the Gulf Coast’s infrastructure severely restricting movement, the detachment provided critically needed transportation for people and supplies.
In 2006, the Vanguard participated in several historic military operations. Due to the heavy-lift capability that only the Sea Dragon can provide, HM-14 was tapped to support a Presidential visit to Mexico in March 2006. The squadron also deployed onboard USS WASP in support of Joint Task Force Lebanon from August to November 2006, moving 80,000 pounds of cargo and 512 personnel. During RIMPAC 06, an HM-14 crew became the first to successfully detect and detonate a live mine using the newly developed Airborne Mine Neutralization System.
In March 2007, HM-14 crowned an exceptional year by receiving the coveted Battle “E” award for operational excellence. Also, in March of 2007, HM-14 was tasked to support a Presidential visit to Uruguay. In a matter of days, HM-14 successfully broke down, rebuilt, and performed a Functional Check Flight on 5 MH-53Es sent to Uruguay inside Air Force C-5s. HM-14 also handed off their permanent detachment in Bahrain over to their sister squadron HM-15 and stood up a new HM-14 DET 1 at MCAS Iwaknui, Japan.
In 2008, HM-14 once again was awarded the Battle “E”, making it the third straight year that HM-14 had received the award. Towards the end 2008, HM-14 DET 1 moved from Iwakuni, Japan to the ROK Marine base in Pohang, Republic of Korea. Once in South Korea, HM-14 DET 1 took part in CLEAR HORIZON. This multinational exercise demonstrated the AMCM capabilities that HM-14 brought to the Korean Peninsula.
During 2009, HM-14 DET 1 flew into Taiwan after the Morokat tsunami to provide relief in operation CARING RESPONSE. DET 1 also participated in the ROK AMCM exercise FOAL EAGLE and the Australian exercise TALISMAN SABRE. HM-14 also participated in SOUTHBOUND TROOPER, a joint exercise along with the army at Fort Pickett in Virginia. This exercise showed HM-14’s versatility as a heavy-lift and combat support asset outside of the AMCM world. HM-14 was also selected to fly President George W. Bush to the aircraft carrier in his name and flew the first Night Vision Device (NVD) flights in a MH-53E, pushing the community towards being fully NVD capable.
In early 2010, HM-14 was called upon for operation UNIFIED RESPONSE in support of the relief efforts following the Haiti earthquake. The vanguard deployed 5 MH-53E’s onboard the USS CARL VINSON (CVN-70) and the USS BATAAN. During the 78 day detachment, HM-14 moved over 1.3 million pounds of cargo and 2,182 passengers, more than all the other aviation assets combined. Following the sinking of the ROK Ship CHEONAN, HM-14 DET 1 carried over 150 passengers and 3,000 pounds of cargo in support of the recovery efforts. HM-14 also moved the first MK-105 minesweeping sleds over to the Korean Peninsula, greatly expanding the Seventh Fleet’s AMCM capabilities and was awarded both the 2010 Battle “E” and Sykorsky Golden Wrench Award.
Following the 9.0 earthquake on the island of Japan in January 2011, HM-14 DET 1 deployed upon the USS Tortuga as part of operation TOMODACHI. HM-14 provided vital support to the relief efforts throughout Japan. On the home front, HM-14 sent 3 aircraft across the country to NAS Whidbey Island for TRIDENT FURY. HM-14 participated in the annual Canadian exercise, clearing Victoria Harbour by cutting several inert mines.
Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron Fourteen has consistently responded to crises throughout the world, providing services that only our personnel and our equipment can provide. We have successfully cleared thousands of miles of water to protect U.S. vessels from mines. We have carried hundreds of thousands of pounds of cargo that no other aircraft is capable of carrying. HM-14 will continue to do so, proudly serving the men and woman of the United States of America as the “World Famous” Vanguard.