HSC-23 Embarks on Landmark Deployment in 4th Fleet Area of Responsibility

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Story Number: NNS140621-06Release Date: 6/21/2014 12:01:00 PM

From HSC-23 Public Affairs.

USS MCCLUSKEY, At Sea (NNS) -- For the "Wildcards" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) TWO THREE, Detachment 3, currently stationed on board the Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate USS McClusky (FFG 41), their departure on April 10 was to be one for the history books.

This landmark Counter-Transnational Organized Crime (C-TOC) deployment in support of Operation Martillio - in which the detachment is tasked to fight illegal drug trafficking - is a first ever for the HSC community.

A short-fused requirement, the Wildcards' maintainers and aircrew worked around-the-clock for six solid weeks to train and complete necessary mission qualifications in their MH-60S "Knighthawk" helicopters to prepare for the detachment. As a joint, inter-service evolution with the Coast Guard's Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) and the Navy's HSM and HSC Pacific Fleet Weapons Schools, pilots and aircrew from all three commands were on hand to instruct the Wildcards in the Airborne Use of Force (AUF) mission.

"We are bringing a new capability to the Navy. Our crews are trained to fight illegal drug trafficking not only during the day but at night. Only one other Navy unit, a reserve unit, is so trained. We're taking the smugglers by surprise." said Cmdr. Jennifer Wilderman, the squadron's commanding officer. "We are very happy to lead the fleet in this advancement, support U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) in this critically important operation, and help fight the influx of illegal drugs into our nation."

According to an article published in 2004 by LT Craig Neubecker, a plank-owner of HITRON, on the history of the command's initial development, "In 1998, the Coast Guard estimated that it was stopping less than ten percent of the drugs entering the United States via the sea."

In response to this alarming statistic, the Coast Guard decided to form HITRON to "counter the go-fast threat." As a result, there was a conspicuous and nearly immediate increase in interdiction rates. To further expand HITRON's new-found success, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy initiated several joint efforts to make USCG aircraft more shipboard compatible. In 2006, the Navy began utilizing the SH-60B "Seahawk" aircraft - flying off of U.S. Navy frigates - to support the joint operations.

"It's fantastic to have the opportunity to work with the Wildcards of Det 3" said Cmdr. Ann McCann, the McClusky's commanding officer. "Their unique capabilities, especially in Airborne Use of Force, will be a game-changer for Frigate and MH-60 operations in this important mission. I'm excited to see what we can accomplish together."

Future operations are likely to shift to other platforms as the Seahawks and the Oliver Hazard Perry class Frigates reach their respective retirement ages. Newer weapons systems such as the MH-60S, the MH-60R, and the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) will be tasked to fill the gap left behind by the aging platforms. Naval Aviation will continue to be a predominant force in preventing the flow of illicit narcotics across U.S. Borders.

Detachment 3's and USS McClusky's current tasking, Operation Martillo (Spanish for 'hammer'), targets illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus, and is an international, inter-agency operation which includes the participation of 14 countries committed to a regional approach against transnational criminal organizations moving illicit cargo.

Hand-picked for this illustrious mission, HSC-23's Wildcards and the HSC community as a whole are proud to undertake this groundbreaking tasking. As one of only a handful of rotary-wing, expeditionary squadrons in the U.S. Navy, HSC-23's Sikorsky MH-60S helicopters will bring a myriad of new capabilities to the 4th Fleet Area of Operations (AOR), thereby further augmenting an already successful anti-trafficking force.

Operation Martillo is a component of the U.S. government's coordinated inter-agency regional security strategy in support of the White House strategy to combat transnational organized crime and the U.S. Central America Regional Security Initiative.

U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet supports U.S. Southern Command's joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations in order to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.

For more news from U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command & U.S. 4th Fleet, visit: www.navy.mil/local/cusns/.

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