USS PORT ROYAL, At sea - Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 37, Det. 5, embarked aboard guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal (CG 73), surpassed 1,000 hours of flight time, Jan. 4.
The Easy Riders of HSL-37, Det. 5, have been aboard Port Royal for more than 230 days, with 200 days at sea.
"If you consider the time between the ship's operational deployments, the fact that we're out here and successfully completing every mission is notable, and speaks to the capability and motivation of the Air Department and the ship's crew," said Lt. Stephen Hutchings, an HSL-37, Det. 5 pilot.
The Easy Riders embarked Port Royal for pre-deployment training in March, and then again for the ship's Western Pacific deployment in June. Prior to this deployment, the ship's first in almost three years, more than 85 percent of the crew had less than three months sea time, and zero experience working with helicopters.
HSL 37, Det. 5 is composed of six pilots, three naval air crewmen and 16 maintainers who fly, operate and maintain two SH-60B helicopters. The primary mission of Air Department is anti-submarine warfare; however, while operating in the U.S. 5th Fleet, the majority of their missions are surface surveillance reconnaissance (SSC).
Additionally, HSL 37.5 provides logistic support to the ship, enabling Port Royal to remain on station for an extended period of time. Air Department transferred more than 20-tons of mail, repair parts, and other cargo, and facilitated more than 100 personnel transfers to shore and ships.
"If we can make a difference for just one day, then it makes the whole eight month deployment worth it," said Naval Air Crewman 2nd Class Bryan Vesce, assigned to HSL- 37.
Air Department conducted time critical maintenance to ensure the successful launch and recovery of their helicopters from ship and shore, and supported other squadrons' requirements for training, certification and emergencies.
In conjunction with Port Royal's flight-deck crew, Air Department supported 500 day-time landings and more than 620 night-time landings for seven other squadrons and units, including joint partners from the U.S. Army.
"Eclipsing the 1,000 hour mark on deployment is a big deal to us, especially considering where we started," said Hutchings. "I would consider this a successful deployment so far."
Since embarking aboard Port Royal, Air Department has completed 720 hours of SSC missions, 11 hours of vertical replenishment, and nearly 80 hours of flight time dedicated to logistics. They have flown approximately 840 hours conducting normal operations, and 165 hours devoted to training, which pushes them over 1,000 total hours of flight time for the year.
"Flying over 1,000 hours for the deployment was not something we originally set out to do, but as we continued to execute our mission, it became more and more apparent that it was an attainable goal, and something everyone wanted to accomplish," said Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Murphy, Det. 5 officer in charge. "In and of itself, flying over 1,000 hours during a single deployment is a major milestone, but considering that Port Royal has not had a helicopter Det. aboard in more than three years makes this even more special. Hitting the 1,000 hour mark represents almost a year's worth of hard work and dedication by both Det. 5 and Port Royal. It was a total team effort, and I could not be any prouder of this rare accomplishment."
The Easy Riders of HSL-37 Det. 5 are based in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, and are embarked aboard Port Royal for the duration of the deployment. Port Royal, a Pearl Harbor-based ship, is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility, conducting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.