USS CARL VINSON (NNS) -- Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 8, "The Eightballers," from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9, currently deployed with USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), have expanded their role in setting the conditions for security and stability by patrolling the skies above Southeastern Iraq and the Northern Persian Gulf.
Keeping half their squadron aboard the "Gold Eagle" to serve as plane guards and patrol craft, HS-8 has the other half at a detachment in Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.
The detachment's key mission is to patrol Southeastern Iraq - primarily Khawr Abd Allah and Khawr As Sabiyah, the waterways that separate Iraq from Iran and Kuwait - and to fly maritime security operation (MSO) patrols in the Northern Persian Gulf to protect vital infrastructure.
MSO sets the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment and complements the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. MSO denies international terrorists use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.
"We are helping to bring stability to the region," said Cmdr. Joey Tynch, HS-8's executive officer. "We're identifying smugglers, high interest contacts and have the opportunity to work with coalition forces to protect main supply routes."
Naval air crew members and pilots are divided into two teams, Blue and Gold, that rotate between the ship and the Army base. The maintainers who care for the helicopters on station in Kuwait have a four- to six-week rotation, and a few select individuals have different rotations due to their fields of expertise.
Accommodations for the temporary shore-based detachment are a far stretch from the shipboard life the majority of them are used to. Large, 12-person tents provide a place for the crew to sleep, and to keep their uniforms and personal items.
The "hangar" that the crew works out of is actually a large, three-room shack next to Patton Air Field, a large strip of asphalt that HS-8 shares with the Army's Black Hawk helicopters.
A large chow hall feeds members of all four services, both enlisted and officer, who are stationed at Camp Arifjan, and three post exchanges provide just about any personal items that the Eightballers may need.
Despite the differences between the desert of Kuwait and the steel decks of Vinson, the HS-8 team has adapted to meet this new part of the mission and work side by side with coalition forces.
"The guys out here are proud of what they're doing," said Tynch. "This is a perfect example of Navy fighting in a joint environment."
The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group includes Carrier Strike Group 3, Carrier Air Wing 9, Destroyer Squadron 31, the guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 70), the guided-missile destroyers USS O'Kane (DDG 77) and USS Mustin (DDG 89), the fast combat support ship USS Camden (AOE 2), and the attack submarine USS Olympia (SSN 717).
The squadrons of Carrier Air Wing 9 include the Blue Diamonds of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 146, the Argonauts of VFA-147, the Black Knights of VFA-154, the Death Rattlers of VMFA-323, the Screwbirds of Sea Control Squadron (VS) 33, the Golden Hawks of Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 112, the Yellow Jackets of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAW) 138, the Providers of Carrier Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30, and HS-8.
For related news, visit the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn70.