By Ensign Kiley Provenzano
USS Gettysburg (CG64) Public Affairs
Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 74, Det. 2, embarked aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg (CG 64) in the Arabian Gulf, successfully conducted its 1,000th flight hour of the current deployment, Jan. 17.
"One thousand flight hours is an incredible feat, and it would not be possible without the dedication of the aircrew and the skill of our maintainers," said HSM-74 "Swamp Foxes" Lt. Cmdr. Jack Clark, the detachment's officer in charge. "Without their attention to detail, precision and many long nights, we would not have been able to reach this point."
Behind the flight hours are two sides of operation, the maintainers and the operators. The air maintenance crew completes approximately ten hours of maintenance for every hour of flight.
"Our birds fly nightly, so maintaining their systems is an absolute priority," said AE1 William Winistorfer.
Boatswain's mates, damage controlmen, hospital corpsmen, ship's servicemen and the pilots and officers controlling the landing all come together to make flight operations a priority for the ship.
Part of that support continues within the aircraft. Flying every hour with the pilots are aviation warfare systems operators, controlling all of the mission equipment. AWR2 Britt Turner has flown 275 hours this deployment.
"It has been a busy deployment," said Turner. "Being able to operate daily has been an incredible experience and opportunity."
Inside the ship, the combat information center plays a large role and logs just as many hours as the pilots. Operations specialists serve as the anti-subsurface tactical controllers (ASTAC) and have worked alongside the pilots for the duration of the deployment.
"Being in an operational environment is one of the most rewarding parts of my job," said OS1 Ronald Wierzbic, one of the ASTAC controllers. "I love tasking the helicopter pilots to identify contacts. I love controlling aircraft."
In addition to reaching the 1,000th flight hour, this deployment has seen several milestones reached for the detachment: they completed six maintenance inspections and functional check flights, achieved more than 2,000 deck hits in 2013, three pilots earned qualifications as helicopter aircraft commanders (HAC) and two more pilots are on a path to qualify before the end of deployment.
"This HAC qualification is complex and it often takes pilots several months to feel confident before they begin the final boarding process," said pilot, Lt. j.g. Joe Granata. "It is about feeling comfortable enough with the regulations, procedures and equipment to operate the helicopter safely. In the end that is a HAC's priority."
HSM-74 Det. 2 will remain aboard Gettysburg until the ship returns to homeport.
Gettysburg is currently deployed with Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. The HSM-74 Swamp Foxes are home based at NAS Jacksonville.