MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) -- The Desert Hawks of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 26 took over the combat logistics mission in the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) area of responsibility from the Desert Ducks of Helicopter Support Squadron (HC) 2 in a change of detachment ceremony in Manama, Bahrain, Sept. 14.
After more than 30 years of forward-deployed service, the era of the Desert Ducks is coming to an end as the Navy plans to replace all remaining H-3 airframes with the H-60S airframe.
The H-3 Sea King completed a transition phase in the mid-1990s, but a few of them were configured for logistical support and search and rescue missions like the ones flown by HC-2.
Rear Adm. John W. Miller, deputy commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, the guest speaker at the ceremony, said the transition from the H-3 to the H-60S will benefit maintenance crews - and ultimately the fleet.
"With the switch we gain increased reliability, decreased maintenance time and maintenance cost and increased commonality with other helicopter assets in the region," said Miller.
"For the entire time the Desert Ducks have been in service they've done a fantastic job. But
these aircraft have been around since the 1960s, and it's time for the sun to set on the H-3," said Miller.
Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Randy Eaton, of HSC-26, a Blair, Neb., native, also feels the change to the Desert Hawks is for the better.
"There's more we can do to the H-60S airframe than the H-3, such as add-ons," said Eaton. "But the Ducks have done an incredible job over the years."
Lt. Cmdr. John Compton, the officer in charge of HC-2, said the H-3 airframe has a bigger cargo capacity, but the Desert Hawk, or H-60S, is much faster, flies better, and the avionics are greatly improved. To compare the two is like comparing a 1957 Chevy Nomad to a 1999 Cadillac Deville, he said.
"One is more comfortable and has air conditioning. It's a pilot's aircraft. The other one's a workhorse. It has old gauges and has been around for 40 years, but it's done a good job," said Compton.
The Desert Ducks have provided "premier" helicopter logistics services to the U.S. 5th Fleet, exemplifying the spirit of combat support, for 30 years, according to Cmdr. Jeffrey Connor, commanding officer of HC-2.
The Ducks have played a vital role in NAVCENT's area of responsibility. Now the Hawks play a major role in NAVCENT maritime security operations (MSO).
"As far as maritime security operations go, our mission is to provide logistics support to the ships in the region. It doesn't matter if we're at war or at peace. Our mission stays the same," said Compton.
Although the Ducks are gone, they won't be forgotten. Cmdr. Kenneth Inglesby, commanding officer of HSC-26, said their standard of excellence will always be remembered.
"The Desert Ducks of HC-2 have a long history of outstanding service and support to the fleet. I congratulate them and all those who have served with the Ducks and have set the standards of excellence so high," said Inglesby.
The Desert Ducks may be retiring from the Navy, but they will continue to serve once in the states, said Aviation Mechanic 1st Class Michael Glidewell, of HC-2, from Louisville, Ky.
"It's sad to see them go, but they've done their duty. They've been very reliable over the years, now they'll go to Moffin, Ariz., where many of them will be sold and hopefully do as good a job as they've done for us," said Glidewell.
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