Cross Nation Cross Deck

January 22, 2019 – Sailors from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71 participated in a helicopter cross deck evolution between the ships of two different nations during the maritime coalition Exercise Intrepid Sentinel, Jan. 15.

The pilots and air crewmen of HSM-71, assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9, conducted helicopter cross deck training by flying from the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) and landing on the Royal Australian Navy Anzac-class frigate HMAS Ballarat (FFH 155).

Lt. John White, from Atlanta, an MH-60R pilot assigned to HSM-71 and the helicopter aircraft commander for one of the flights, was impressed with how much he learned from the cross deck.

“The experience was incredible. Training to work together on a different platform, to work in close proximity together, and to land on a new platform gives us the ability to expand our skillset,” said White.

The coordination for the flights began a few days earlier, starting with exchanging emails and finishing with a teleconference the day before the flight.

“Before we went out there we had a teleconference, and we were immediately speaking the same tactical language,” said White. “It was much easier for us to work together than I had imagined.”

Though the landing areas were different between the ships of the two countries, the professionalism and communication procedures were familiar, said White.

“The only difference was in the shape of our landing area. Communications were easy. The check-in procedures were the same,” said White.

White was able to observe another MH-60R, also assigned to HSM-71, conduct a deck landing qualification (DLQ) before it was his turn.

Upon landing, the air crew had a few minutes to exchange patches with the crew of the Ballarat and exchange some face-to-face lessons learned.

“They were so welcoming,” said White. “When we landed on deck, they were eager to show us the similarities and differences between our ships. They wanted to teach us so we could enhance our collective professional knowledge and capabilities, not only for surface warfare, but also for the air warfare component.”

As White departed the Ballarat, he was able to make one last radio call to the ship, thanking them for the experience.

“The opportunity that we were given to do this demonstrated not only our capability to interoperate, but how natural it is to work with our partner nations. The professional way that the crew [of Ballarat] operated made me feel like I was flying to my own ship,” said White.

Intrepid Sentinel brings together the John C. Stennis Strike Group, France’s Marine Nationale, United Kingdom’s Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy for a multinational exercise designed to enhance war fighting readiness and interoperability between allies and partners. The John C. Stennis Strike Group is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points.