Saberhawks Hold Change of Command

PHILIPPINE SEA (NNS) – The “Saberhawks” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 77 held a change of command ceremony at sea, Oct. 4.

During the ceremony, Cmdr. Rob Wickman relieved Cmdr. Kenneth P. Ward as commanding officer of HSM-77.

Ward, a native of Corpus Christi, Texas, assumed command of HSM-77 July 4, 2015. Prior to assuming command at he served with the ‘Vipers’ of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 48 in support of counter narcotics operations embarked on USS Mcinerney (FFG 8), participated in both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom embarked on USS San Jacinto (CG 56), forward deployed to Sasebo, Japan on USS Juneau (LPD 10) as the Air Officer and forward deployed as the maintenance officer to the ‘Warlords’ of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 51 in Atsugi, Japan as well as HSL 51 Detachment Four Officer-in-Charge embarked on USS Shiloh (CG 67). He has more than 2,700 flight hours and approximately 1,700 shipboard landings.

Since arriving at HSM 77, he has led the squadron during a number of exercise to include, Multi-Sail 2015, Talisman Sabre 2015, the hull swap from USS Gorge Washington (CVN 73S) to the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), Ronald Reagan’s arrival in Yokosuka, Japan, Annual Exercise 2015, Dual Carrier Operations with USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9, Valiant Shield 2016, a number of Anti-Submarine Warfare evolutions, operations in the South China Sea, and many more. “I am truly humbled and grateful to have served as the Commanding Officer of the “Saberhawks,” said Ward. “HSM-77 is my highly lethal and combat effective second family, and it has been the absolute highest honor to have served with each and every one of these warriors.”

During his time at HSM-77, the squadron was awarded 2014 Battle Efficiency award, and the 2014 and 2015 Retention Excellence Award, also known as the Golden Anchor award.

Prior to the ceremony, Wickman said, “Cmdr. Ward has done an incredible job as Commanding Officer in his time with the Saberhawks. I am privileged to take command and continue leading the men and women who give their heart to this squadron.” Wickman, a native of Westlake, Ohio, assumed command of HSM-77 after serving as the Executive Officer for the squadron. After his commissioning, and upon graduation from flight school, he was placed on the Commodore’s list for sustained superior performance throughout the flight training program. In his career he has served with HSL-40, the “Swamp Foxes” of HSL-44, USS Klakring (FFG 42), in support of Counter Drug Operations and a multinational maritime exercise known as UNITAS. He alsoserved in USS Bulkeley (DDG 84), flying in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

Commander Wickman reported back to HSL-40 as a flight instructor in August of 2004. While at HSL-40, he was the Production Officer and Assistant Training Officer. He reported to USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) in July of 2007 as the Assistant Navigator. While onboard he earned his Officer of the Deck and Command Duty Officer, underway, qualifications. In November of 2009, Commander Wickman reported to the “Warlords” of HSL-51. While at HSL-51, he deployed on USS Mustin (DDG 89) as the Detachment Officer-in-Charge and served as squadron Training and Maintenance Officers. During his time at HSL-51, he flew missions in support Operation Tomodachi to support the Japanese community.

Following his operational Department Head tour, he reported to the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations, Programming Division, in December 2011. He served as a programming analyst for aviation matters in the “Bullpen.”

“I am prepared to use the knowledge I have gained over the years to help build and grow the capabilities of the Saberhawks,” said Wickman. “Together we can continue the tradition of hardwork, discipline, and dedication to support security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.” Founded in September 1987, the Saberhawks began as Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 47 and they employed the SH-60B helicopter at the forefront of helicopter operations in the Pacific Fleet. In 2009, HSL-47 transitioned to HSM-77.

The Saberhawks were attached to the USS Abraham Lincoln Strike Group and deployed with the MH-60R until August of 2012, when their outstanding reputation led to their selection to fight from the tip of the spear with Battle Force 7th Fleet.

Previously embarked on board USS George Washington (CVN 73) with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) Five, the “Saberhawks” are now embarked on board the Nimitzclass aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76).

HSM-77’s missions are to conduct Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Surface Warfare (SUW,) as well as Search and Rescue (SAR), Vertical Replenishment (VERTREP), Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC), Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS), and Communications Relay (COMREL) in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

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