NAS WHITING FIELD, Fla. (NNS) -- Training Air Wing (TRAWING) 5 established a third advanced helicopter training command, Helicopter Training Squadron (HT) 28 "Hellions" in a ceremony May 25, at Naval Air Station Whiting Field.
The establishment of HT-28 will help to meet the growing demand for United States Navy and Marine Corps helicopter pilots while also training Coast Guard and international navy pilots.
Rear Adm. Gary R. Jones, Commander Naval Education and Training Command, was the keynote speaker for the event.
"The Navy and and Marine Corps are undergoing a significant transformation in readiness postures, deployment strategies, and manpower initiatives," Jones said.
"Naval Education and Training, along with the Naval Aviation Enterprise are fully engaged in the war against radical extremists, a conflict that will require state-of-the-art training in support of American combat power for many years to come. The superb training that will be conducted within HT-28, as well as the outstanding training currently being conducted in the other squadrons here at Whiting Field, is one of the first steps in taking the fight to the enemy."
Due to a constant increase in the required number of winged helicopter pilots to the fleet, TRAWING 5's two advanced training squadrons have had to graduate more students, increasing instructor flight time and reducing student/instructor contact time. The addition of HT-28 will help return the squadrons to a smaller state which will foster more familiarization between instructor pilots and students, enabling instructors to better personalize each sortie to the needs of the student and deliver appropriate training.
The first class of student aviators will arrive in June. As these officers progress through the training, new classes of students will continuously be assigned to the command every few weeks. The HT-28 mission and size will steadily increase over approximately six months until equal to that of the other helicopter training squadrons at Whiting.
The Hellions' first commanding officer will be Cmdr. John McLain.
"The Navy chooses commanding officers very carefully," said Jones. "Those we put in command are charged not only with the future of that command, but with the future of the Navy. The dedication to service and adherence to the Navy Core Values of Honor, Courage and Commitment that we demand of our Sailors, are reflections -- reflections of the warrior ethos embodied in the leaders we choose to command. We have such a leader in HT-28's commanding officer, Cmdr. John 'Gypsy' McLain."
McLain's executive officer will be Marine Lt. Col. Clay Stackhouse. Command of the squadron will alternate between the Navy and Marine Corps, a structure which has already proven effective at HT-18.
About 50 "Plank Owner" instructor pilots were drawn from HT-8 and HT-18.
"The decision to stand up a third squadron is proof that helicopters and tilt-rotors are where the action is in naval aviation today," said McLain during the welcome aboard briefing for the instructor pilots.
In 2006, the two existing advanced helicopter training squadrons at Whiting Field completed over 70,000 flight hours and winged more than 500 Navy, Marine, Coast Guard and allied helicopter and tilt-rotor pilots: more than 40 percent of all naval aviators produced last year. The mission is expected to increase over the next several years.
The squadron took its name "Hellions" from a World War II Marine Corps Fighter Squadron, VMF-218. The Hellions will operate out of South Whiting Field, in Milton, Fla., along with its sister squadrons, HT-8 "Eightballers" and HT-18 "Vigilant Eagles."
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