By Rear Adm. Bruce Lindsey
Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic
Between hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, nearly 170 Americans lost their lives this summer. Thousands of others lost their homes and all their possessions: clothing, furniture, pets and decades of memories. Our hearts and prayers go out to all those caught in the path of these deadly storms. We have seen tragedies like this play out before with hurricanes such as Andrew, Gustov and Katrina. Now Harvey, Irma and Maria join these names forever burned into our memories.
While all of these hurricanes resulted in death and destruction, they also have something else in common – the Navy was there to answer the call for help. VIDOR, Texas (Aug. 31, 2017) Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Jansen Schamp, a native of Denver, Colorado and assigned to the Dragon Whales of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28, reassures a family after a rescue at Pine Forrest Elementary School, a shelter that required evacuation after flood waters from Hurricane Harvey reached its grounds. The mission resulted in the rescue of seven adults, seven children and four dogs. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Christopher Lindahl/Released) As Hurricane Harvey approached the shores of Texas, the Navy was called into action. HSC-7 Dusty Dogs and HSC-28 Dragon Whales were the first squadrons to arrive on station, tirelessly working around the clock through dangerous weather conditions to save lives. Often in the darkness of night, using night vision optics and infrared capabilities, the two squadrons saved hundreds of citizens from the rising flood waters.
All told, HSC-7 and HSC-28 flew 49 sorties accumulating 225 flight hours. They combined for 358 rescues while also saving 22 dogs and 5 cats, and delivering 1,660 lbs. of water, food and medical supplies. They were relieved Sept. 3 by our West Coast counterparts, HSC-21 Blackjacks and HSC-23 Wildcards, who continued flying search and rescue/logistics coverage during the day and stood the alert SAR overnight. CARIBBEAN SEA (Sept. 7, 2017) Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class John Malico and Aircrewman (Rescue Swimmer) 1st Class Erick Sotelo, both assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22, help a mother and child during the U.S. Navy relief efforts in the U.S. Virgin Islands following Hurricane Irma. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Wilkes/Released) Less than two weeks later, Hurricane Irma came ashore in southern Florida leaving a trail of destruction as it moved north. The Florida Keys were amongst the hardest hit area with homes destroyed, boats sunk in channels and harbors, and power cut off to the thousands of stranded survivors. Without skipping a beat, the Navy was there to respond. Stationed aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), HSM-70 Spartans and HSC-28 Dragon Whales flew mission after mission to provide help delivering food, fresh water and medical supplies. To their south off the Florida Keys, HSC-22 Sea Knights joined in the efforts from aboard USS Wasp (LHD 1), who was accompanied by six HSC-28 MH-60S’s embarked […]