By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alec J. Noe, USS Makin Island Public Affairs
USS MAKIN ISLAND, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Makin Island's (LHD 8) Air Department successfully landed helicopters from four of the five armed services while on its way to its commissioning site and new homeport in San Diego.
During the first three days underway, Makin Island completed nearly 250 "touch and go's" (take-off and landing evolutions) with four different types of aircraft, and achieved Aviation Readiness Qualification (ARQ) Underway flight deck certifications.
The aircraft included the Marine Corps' CH-46E Sea Knight, the Navy's MH-53E Super Stallion and HH-65 Dauphin and the Coast Guard's MH-60J Jayhawk helicopters.
This achievement is a significant step toward the ship's overall flight deck certification, a requirement for Makin Island to conduct regular flight operations.
Just days later, Makin Island continued its inaugural week of aviation events and conducted air operations off the coast of Belize in support of U.S. Army CH-47 Chinooks attached to Joint Task Force Bravo. These aircraft and their pilots may be called upon to provide humanitarian relief to South American countries in the event of a natural disaster such as a hurricane or earthquake. By landing on Makin Island, these pilots can now operate off any other other large deck ship which might be mobilized to support the same operation from a sea base.
"We have a lot of senior people, but we also have a lot of junior people and people coming off of shore duty who are a little rusty, so during our in-port period we were doing a lot of simulated flight quarters just to kind of get all the bugs worked out," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 1st Class Michael Fields, flight deck supervisor.
"When we had the first 'birds' (helicopters) come on deck everyone was on the same page, the communication was flowing well and the rust was knocked off."
Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Airmen Patrick Morrison is one of Fields' junior Sailors and offered his feedback about the training.
"I know when we did the simulated flight quarters they just kind of had to explain what the aircraft looked like, but when we actually saw them out here it was a little easier to see," said Morrison "I think it went really well. It was pretty smooth."
"It's nice to see them finally get to see the wealth of all their sweat and tears they [offered] putting the flight deck together. Everyone's starting to bond and seeing it is like poetry in motion," added Fields.
Makin Island is currently circumnavigating South America, via the Strait of Magellan, to its new homeport of San Diego. During its transit, the ship is scheduled to make port visits in Brazil, Chile and Peru to support U.S. Southern Command objectives for enhanced maritime security and to share methods and training that will build on U.S. and partner nations' interoperability and strong relations.
For more news from USS Makin Island (LHD 8), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd8/.