By Mass Communications Specialist Seaman Daniel Schumacher
Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 8 accumulated more than 20,000 flight hours without a class alpha mishap Feb. 22.
According to official instruction, a class alpha mishap is defined as an incident resulting in more than $2 million in damages, the loss of an aircraft, loss of life, or permanent total disability. HSC-8 has not experienced a class alpha mishap since 2006.
HSC-8’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Larry Meehan, from Margate N.J., stated that safety is his number one concern for HSC-8.
“We focus on the basics and an equally robust focus on communication across all ranks,” said Meehan. “We want our Sailors to be encouraged and empowered to take the steps to maintain safety throughout the work environment.”
“The safety of our members is the most critical condition,” said Lt. j.g. Leah Jordan, ground safety officer, from Weston, Wis. “If by our own neglect, not only is the safety of our team compromised but the mission may become compromised as well.”
In order to further improve upon command safety measures, HSC-8 has incorporated the Aviation Safety Awareness Program (ASAP), an anonymous online safety reporting system, into routine procedure as well as command-wide safety surveys to evaluate active safety programs.
“We have a toolbox full of safety programs at our disposal,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Vest, HSC-8 safety officer, from Payson, Utah. “It’s through the effective use of all of the programs together that we build a positive safety culture.”
In addition to ASAP, HSC-8’s chain of command has implemented the Safety Professional Program (SPP), a way for the chain of command to personally thank and recognize Sailors who take action to prevent or fix a potential safety issue before a mishap occurs.
“The reason why we are all here today is because of our commitment to the safety of our Sailors,” said Master Chief Aircraft Maintenanceman Christian Ariowinoto, maintenance master chief, from New York City. “In my 24 years of service, I have never seen such professionalism as I have here in HSC-8. One of the biggest things we implement is that leadership also starts with our junior Sailors. If they have a new idea, we can input their idea into a new safety protocol, and in doing so, every Sailor has an investment in the mission.”
HSC-8’s primary missions are search and rescue operations, anti-surface warfare, and special operations support.
HSC-8 is one of nine squadrons with carrier air wing (CVW) 9, deployed with the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (JCSCSG). The JCSCSG also includes the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), Destroyer Squadron 21, and guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53). The JCSCSG is forward deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support mission for Operation Enduring Freedom.
An MH-60S Knighthawk of the Eightballers of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 8 prepares to land aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chelsy Alamina/Released)