By Clark Pierce
The "Spartans" of HSM-70 will depart their home base of NAS Jacksonville Feb. 14 to join Carrier Air Wing (CVW)-8 on board the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) - as well as the three other ships that comprise Carrier Strike Group (CSG 2).
Of the squadron's 11 MH-60R Seahawk helicopters, five will operate from Bush and six will operate from three surface combatants attached to CSG 2: guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58); guided-missile destroyer Roosevelt (DDG 80); and guided-missile destroyer USS Truxton (DDG 103).
The squadron was previously scheduled to deploy with Bush in July 2013 - but government sequester issues pushed the deployment back to this month.
In an interview at NAS Jacksonville Hangar 1122, HSM-70 Executive Officer Cmdr. Jeremy Vaughn said, "During that time, we reset our training plan to seven months, which included exercises at Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center in the Bahamas, followed by NAS Fallon, Nevada, for air wing warfare training. We also supported CSG 2's Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) and Joint Task Force Exercise."
He added that all the squadron's aircraft are up and fully mission capable for the scheduled 9-1/2 month deployment.
HSM-70 Commanding Officer Cmdr. Matt Schnappauf was unavailable for an interview.
"Skipper Schnappauf and I can't say enough about our skilled maintainers. During COMPTUEX, we flew 26 percent of the air wing's sorties, which put a lot of hours on our helicopters. During the past couple of months, our maintainers put in a lot of hours to ensure all systems are ready to go for every Seahawk," said Vaughn.
"We also recently completed operational stress control (OSC) awareness training, which aims to teach Sailors how to recognize signs and symptoms of stress in themselves and others - and how to manage operational stress," said Vaughn. "The OSC instructors are very capable in bringing their message down to the deckplate level in order to help build resiliency in our Sailors and their families."
The squadron's ombudsmen and family readiness group have also done a lot to help prepare the Sailors for deployment. Social media such as the HSM-70 facebook page and tools such as email and Skype - as well as the old-fashioned "care package"- will keep the Spartans stay in touch with home.
Vaughn concluded, "Skipper Schnappauf and I want to pass along our sincere thanks to every command at NAS Jacksonville that has assisted HSM-70 in our preparation to join the Bush Carrier Strike Group."
Squadrons attached to CVW-8 include: VFA-15 "Valions," VFA-87 "Golden Warriors," VFA-31 "Tomcatters," VFA-213 "Black Lions," VAW-124 "Bear Aces," VAQ-134 "Garudas," VRC-40 "Rawhides," HSC-9 "Tridents" and HSM-70 "Spartans."