USS GUNSTON HALL, At Sea (NNS) –
U.S. Army pilots assigned to Joint Task Force Bravo (JTF-B) completed annual deck landing qualifications for their CH-47 Chinook and UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters on board amphibious dock-landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), Feb. 12-15.
Gunston Hall is on a scheduled deployment to the U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) area of responsibility supporting Amphibious Southern Partnership Station 2011 (A-SPS 11).
The A-SPS 11 mission is designed to foster friendly, mutual cooperation and understanding between participating regional, civil and maritime services in Central America and the Caribbean Basin.
JTF-B, based in Soto Cano, Honduras, supports U.S. interests in Central America through regional cooperative security, supporting counter-drug strategy, exercising combined forces, disaster relief and humanitarian/civic assistance.
"We try to re-certify every four to six months," said Army Chief Warrant Officer Shawn Fogarty, JTF-B battalion tactical operations officer. "This qualification enhances our capability to work with host nations and share through partnerships."
The certification consisted of two days of JTF-B flight deck landing and liftoff maneuvers with Gunston Hall flight crew members assisting with signaling, wheel chocks and securing the aircraft to the deck with chains.
"The qualifications and trainings went really well," said Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Krista N. Park, a landing signalman aboard Gunston Hall. "There was great teamwork between the pilots and the landing crew; it was very smooth."
More than 25 JTF-B pilots completed six consecutive bounces, which are landings, liftoffs, circling then repeating the process. It takes approximately 30 minutes for each pilot to complete the deck-landing qualification.
Working together alongside partner nation's civil and military services, sharing ideas and information, A-SPS11 aims to improve interoperability and enhance regional maritime security.
"This qualification is instrumental to the region," said Fogarty. "Especially in missions that are designed to go out and share with partner nations. This gives us the tools to do the job."
"This is an outstanding training opportunity for the aircrew and our flight deck personnel on board Gunston Hall," said Capt. John Meier, USS Gunston Hall commanding officer. "It's really a symbiotic relationship, where we provide a challenging at-sea landing platform that truly tests the pilot's skills, and the JTF-B crews help us to maintain our qualifications, while bringing us material support and mail. As a ship we rarely have the opportunity to operate with Army helicopters, so having the CH-47s and the UH-60s operate on our flight deck, gives us a broader experience base than the standard Navy helicopter support missions."