COLLEGE STATION, Texas (NNS) -- Sailors from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadrons (HSC) 7 and 28 have been working around the clock in support of FEMA's rescue efforts in the region following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.
The Dusty Dogs of HSC-7 brought 77 Sailors and four helicopters to the region and the Dragon Whales of HSC-28 brought another two helicopters and 35 Sailors. The squadrons have been in the region supporting the FEMA relief efforts since Monday, where they logged 227 rescues in the first day alone.
While the helicopters themselves along with the pilots, rescue swimmers and joint coordination with other military branches typically garner the big headlines, it is unsung aircraft maintainers who often get overlooked.
Behind every rescue in a tree, on a roof or on a front porch, there is a team of support personnel making sure their MH-60S Seahawks are equipped, maintained, operational and capable of supporting the relief efforts.
To do this, both squadrons are working together to ensure there are enough aircrew who are trained, qualified and capable to meet the mission.
"In general, everybody's qualified in some way or another so we can all help each other to keep the aircraft in the air," said Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Christopher Rice, a helicopter maintainer assigned to HSC-28. "Even if they're not qualified, they're still out there doing whatever they need to do to help out, so everybody's helping each other out to get it done."
Whether the support teams are bloodying their knuckles while turning wrenches or working behind the scenes on logistics and transportation, the Sailors working behind the scenes realize they have as much at stake as anyone else. Their families also realize the sacrifice.
"She understands, 100 percent," Rice said of his wife. "It's kinda rough, but she understands."
Lt. j.g. Winston Benjamin, the Maintenance Material Control Officer for HSC-7 said the sheer logistics of moving that many people, helicopters, parts, equipment, tools and support materials is a daunting task that should not be taken for granted.
"We have a lot of experience doing it," he said. "I myself am from a detachment background, so when I was stationed in Japan as a young sailor, we did a lot of that - a lot of 24 hour tethers, so you get used to it, how to get people, parts and equipment to different places."
Benjamin referenced the Navy's Individual Material Readiness List (IMRL) as a key tool that they used to know exactly what to pack, ship, load and move.
The squadrons received the call to provide support late Friday night and began the move by noon Saturday.
Benjamin said the logistics are very difficult to manage, but the teams came together and launched all six helicopters manned with minimal crews on Saturday before loading the rest of the personnel and millions of dollars of gear in a C-40, belonging to the Globemasters of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VR) 56 that would fly on Sunday.
"That's what makes it so dynamic, we're used to moving helicopters constantly, so it's like second nature to us," he said. "We get told to move, we make it happen."
Once the maintainers are on station, however, their training kicks in and everything smoothly transitions to familiar routines and workflow.
"It's pretty much like being home or on the ship, nothing changed for us," Benjamin said. "The only thing that really changes is how we operate, the hours we fly and some other special requirements in terms of pre-maintenance and post-maintenance."
Either way the maintainers will keep maintaining and the rescue swimmers and pilots will keep rescuing.
"We are happy to be here," said Benjamin.