USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea (NNS) -- From late night March 21 through the next day, USS Harry S. Truman's (CVN 75) flight deck was inundated with the unceasing roar of jet engines as the ship and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3 began combat operations into Iraq.
But it wasn't just the fighter and attack squadrons who took to the skies. It was just after 1 a.m. March 22 when the word was passed over the 1MC, "Now set full bore ..." As Sailors aboard the ship rushed to man their .50 caliber machine guns and stood ready to defend the ship from possible attack, one helicopter was already in the air, racing toward a possible enemy combatant.
Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (HS) 7, based in Jacksonville, Fla., flies the SH-60 Seahawks that provide plane guard and defensive capabilities for Truman. When the full bore was called, flight operations were already well underway, so HS-7 already had a crew in the air.
"It took me by surprise at first," said Marion, Ill., native Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 1st Class (AW/NAC) Jeremy Burkart, who was part of the H-60 air crew when the full bore was called. "The strikes were going on, so we were already pumped up, and when we got the full bore call, it just added to the excitement."
Full bore is set when a possible enemy contact has been sighted. The ship takes a defensive posture and moves at top speed. An armed helicopter attempts to identify the contact as friend or foe, and chase away or engage any contact that turns out to be unfriendly.
"We protect the ship. That's our first priority," Burkart said. "We're armed, so we're able to do that. Our goal is to put as much distance as possible between the ship and an aggressor."
Although the contact turned out to be a false radar hit, Lt. Cmdr. Mark McManus of Lynn, Mass., said his crew was more than prepared for the real thing.
"Obviously the ship was pretty concerned with this contact," he said. "It was the first night of air strikes, and we sent out our senior crews. I think we handled it well. We were prepared to handle it."
Although the intensity has stepped up a bit, HS-7's mission hasn't changed since the air strikes began. The squadron's primary mission is still providing plane guard protection.
This requires HS-7's pilots and air crewmen to vigilantly patrol the waters around the ship when flight operations are underway.
"We provide a search and rescue platform. If someone falls overboard or a pilot has to eject over water, we're there to make the rescue," said Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 3rd Class (NAC) Sean McGowan of Savannah, Ga. "We can replace aircraft, but we can't replace people."
HS-7 is also prepared for combat search and rescue operations. This possibility may soon become a reality as aircraft from Truman continue to head into the skies over Iraq.
"We're capable of being forward-deployed," McManus said. "We can fly into enemy territory to perform combat search and rescue missions if a pilot is downed or has to eject. We can also arm the helo and take out surface contacts."
As the war to liberate the Iraqi people progresses, HS-7 and the rest of the HST/CVW 3 team will continue to do what it takes to defeat the forces of terror.
For related news, visit the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn75.