WESTERN PACIFIC OCEAN—At any
moment of any day, a helicopter crew assigned to the Chargers,
Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 14, is circling USS George
Washington (CVN 73), with responsibilities ranging from
anti-submarine warfare (ASW) to search and rescue (SAR).
Founded 25 years ago today in San Diego, HS-14 has been protecting
the Navy’s only permanently forward deployed aircraft carrier from
its base in Atsugi, Japan for the past 15 years as a part of Carrier
“HS-14’s primary mission is submarine defense of the inner aircraft
carrier zone,” said HS-14’s Assistant Operations Officer Lt. Chris
Stevens. “We’re the last line of defense against submarines.”
Stevens said other missions include Search and Rescue special
operations with Navy/Sea/Air and Land (SEAL) teams, explosive
ordinance disposal (EOD) missions for mine disposal, and vertical
replenishments. “If there’s anything involving a helo, we do it,” he
HS-14’s Executive Officer Cmdr. Ray Hesser explained that since a
helicopter’s capabilities are so versatile, nearly every single
mission that the George Washington Carrier Strike Group performs
directly involves HS-14.
“Whether it’s a fly day or no-fly day, underway or in port, we have
something to do,” said Hesser. “Even when we have a day off, we’re
on alert for SAR.”
Such is the life of many helicopter squadrons in the Navy. But what
makes HS-14 different, Stevens said, is their size and range.
“Not only do we have a primary carrier-based squadron, we have two
autonomous single-helicopter detachments, each with two pilots, two
air crewmen and about 11 maintainers,” he said.
These two extra crews provide additional ASW capabilities for the
carrier strike group on USS Cowpens (CG 63) and USS Mustin (DDG 89).
“With the [squadron on GW] together with these two ‘satellites,’ we
have 24-hour ASW coverage if we need it. They double our helicopter
ability for anything that might come up,” said Stevens. “That’s the
“While a standard HS squadron might have seven or eight helicopters
assigned to it, HS-14 has been afforded 12 to fulfill this
extra-duty requirement,” Stevens said.
HS-14 also has additional crew members to maintain the extra four
helicopters and eight more pilots to fly them.
“Every HS squadron has to have the capability to field a detachment
at a moment’s notice,” said Hesser. “But none of them do it
continuously, with two detachments, and sustain like we do.”
Hesser explained that in the Navy there are two general kinds of
helicopter squadrons. Expeditionary squadrons deploy small groups
from shore-based commands, while most HS squadrons deploy their
entire squadron to a large-deck ship. Only HS-14 does both—in order
to provide more ASW coverage.
Because GW operates as part of the Forward-Deployed Naval Forces, in
a high-traffic area for submarines, Stevens said HS-14 makes ASW a
“We have to maintain ASW presence pretty much around the clock,” he
said. “So we come away with more day-to-day, real-world experience
and about 100 hours of extra flight time,” he said.
Hesser said going on a detachment is a good opportunity for pilots,
aircrew members and maintenance personnel alike because they get the
chance to work independently.
“The detachment’s officer-in-charge is independently responsible for
all 18 people and one helicopter. They don’t get that experience on
The independent nature and inherent responsibility that comes with
being part of an HS-14 detachment applies to all personnel within
the detachment—from the parachute riggers to the aviation
electronics technician’s in-charge of tactical gear. Crewmembers
chosen to work off the carrier are carefully selected for their
“They have to be very reliable,” he said. “I think they grow
professionally and when they come back they appreciate the
camaraderie of the squadron having been away for some time.”
In Hesser’s opinion, the most rewarding thing about being a
“Charger” is knowing that he’s making a difference for his country.
“Our part of the mission is so important,” he said. “I feel the
satisfaction of being able to contribute to such an important job.”
Commanded by Capt. David A. Lausman, GW is the flagship for the
George Washington Carrier Strike Group, commanded by Rear Adm. Kevin
Donegan and comprised of Carrier Airwing Five (CVW-5); Destroyer
Squadron 15 (DESRON 15) and the guided missile cruisers USS Shiloh
(CG 67) and USS Cowpens (CG 63).