SIGONELLA, Sicily (NNS) -- Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HC) 4's "Black Stallions" began their relocation from Naval Air Station (NAS) Sigonella to their new homeport of Norfolk, Va. Jan. 7.
Four of the squadron's five MH-53E Sea Stallion heavy lift helicopters lifted off for a seven-month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), before joining the remaining aircraft and crew in Norfolk.
The move is part of the Navy's ongoing transformation, which will ensure increased efficiency in the use of its forces.
"The Navy's transformation in Europe does not have a finish line," said Adm. Harry Ulrich, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe, in a press statement August 2005 by the U.S. Naval Forces Europe and 6th Fleet Public Affairs. "It is the process of continually evolving to capture operational and fiscal efficiencies. Homeporting HC-4 in Norfolk allows us to maximize resources available stateside while retaining the capability they bring through forward-deployed operations."
"We have the ability to reach out and touch naval assets all over by bringing people and supplies out to the ships, saving them time in station so they don't have to pull into port," said Cmdr. Eric Shirey, HC-4 commanding officer. "That's what is unique about the MH-53E. It has a large cargo capacity with a long range."
The squadron has recently undergone extensive training and modifications to prepare them for the deployment and the transformation of their overall mission. Many crew members are anxious to see what else is in store for the squadron within the coming months.
"I like my job and I like being able to see the aircraft fly," said Aviation Structural Mechanic 2nd Class Nicholas Trim. "I'm looking forward to what lies ahead."
"One thing I've learned about being in the Navy is that they never keep you in one place long enough for you to get bored," said Aviation Structural Mechanic Airman John Peace. "That's one of the reasons I joined. There's always a new adventure."
"The troops have done a great job during this period of change," said Shirey. "The change of homeport is just a small piece of the puzzle, and I really want to thank them for all that they've done."
Already a 43-year-old squadron, the Black Stallions arrived at Sigonella Aug. 25, 1983. Through heavy lift and aerial logistics the squadron has participated in every major operation and exercise within the theater since they arrived. They have also provided support services for the 6th and 5th Fleet.
The local community has benefited from the Black Stallions presence as well. In 1992, they helped to divert the flow of lava from the town of Zafferana during the eruption of Sicily's Mount Etna. They assisted in the movement and placement of several culturally important statues, and serviced the area with their fire fighting capabilities.
"I think HC-4 will miss Sigonella, and I think Sigonella will miss HC-4," said Shirey. "We've always been a part of the community and have always participated in the Sigonella affairs as well as the local community. We'll miss the families here, the food and the culture, but we're ready for the upcoming mission."
For related news, visit the Naval Air Station Sigonella Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/nassig/.