U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa / U.S. Sixth Fleet by Ensign Jatin Khona, electrical officer, USS Roosevelt
ROTA, SPAIN – Nearly every day underway, a MH-60R Seahawk helicopter can be seen launching and landing aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, that is currently on its fourth Forward Deployed Naval Forces-Europe (FDNF-E) patrol.
It is now standard for each helicopter capable ship from Destroyer Squadron 60 to deploy with an air detachment aboard, but this is a recent addition to the FDNF-E capabilities. Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 79 became the first and only FDNF-E expeditionary squadron in 2021, when they fielded a permanent Rota detachment and started their full squadron transition to Rota, Spain, from San Diego, California.
HSM-79 deployed for the first time in March 2021 as a detachment on Roosevelt’s second patrol. That first detachment laid the groundwork for how the squadron would operate as a forward deployed unit. The supply chain for ordering parts and material overseas, the air planning and related logistics of participation in NATO exercises, the maximizing of flight time for the pilots in the new environment and the permanent integration of FDNF-E ship/air teams were all unique challenges faced by the squadron during that time.
“Going through flight school I never anticipated what the realities of operating aboard a ship as a helicopter pilot would be, but this has been a wholly gratifying experience, both personally and professionally,” said Lt. Christy Green, HSM-79 maintenance and logistics officer. “The range of experience I’ve had over my two patrols is vast – we’ve participated in real operational anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare tasking as well as numerous joint and NATO exercises.”
This is Green’s second tour aboard USS Roosevelt. She first deployed with Roosevelt during its second patrol in 2021 as a Second Pilot (2P), or a junior pilot. Now 18 months later, Green is a fully qualified Helicopter Aircraft Commander (HAC).
Shipboard helicopter operations are often complicated – they necessitate creating a stable deck, driving the ship to get appropriate wind across the flight deck, and limiting seawater spray over the side. All of the aircraft requirements must then be balanced with the operational requirements of the ship and every other evolution happening on board. Pilots have to understand the maneuvering and operations of the ship and Roosevelt Sailors are required to understand the capabilities and limitations of the MH-60R Seahawk helicopter.
“Running successful helicopter operations on a warship requires a level of trust and skill that depends heavily on the relationship between the flight deck and bridge teams,” said Lt.j.g. Maryrose Stone, assistant combat systems officer aboard Roosevelt. “It’s inherently a high risk evolution, but we are able to execute safe operations due to the team we have aboard.”
Between Roosevelt’s second and fourth patrol, Green has seen differences in the way the air detachment operates with the Roosevelt crew.
“The cohesion between the squadron and the ship has improved greatly – I passed down all that I learned from the mistakes on the first patrol to my Second Pilots to improve each patrol in the future,” said Green. “This patrol I’ve been much more able to focus on the decision-making, teaching the 2Ps, and coordinating with the ship as the aircraft commander.”
USS Roosevelt, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, began its fourth Forward Deployed Naval Forces-Europe (FDNF-E) patrol Sept. 27 in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe area of operations, employed by U.S. Sixth Fleet to defend U.S., allied and partner interests.
Headquartered in Naples, Italy, NAVEUR-NAVAF operates U.S. naval forces in the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) areas of responsibility. U.S. Sixth Fleet is permanently assigned to NAVEUR-NAVAF, and employs maritime forces through the full spectrum of joint and naval operations.
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