USS Wasp, At Sea (NNS) -- Helicopter Mine Counter Measure Squadron (HM) 15 "Blackhawks" are providing air lift support for personnel and equipment aboard the multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) during a crisis response exercise off the coast of Bahrain that began Nov. 1.
"We provide heavy-lift capabilities," said Lt. Scott Tompkins, a pilot for HM-15. "If that means carrying troops or cargo, the aircraft is capable of doing either."
HM-15 uses the MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter, an aircraft that is capable of carrying 55 people, or a payload of up to 16 tons.
Many of the pilots and air crew of HM-15 have already experienced crisis response scenarios during their careers.
"Most of the pilots here were involved with [Hurricane] Katrina, so they have the experience with real life situations that may occur," said Tompkins.
While HM-15 pilots and air crew have practical experience, they still find this exercise helpful for future crisis response situations.
"By practicing this exercise, it will make everything smoother and will allow us to respond faster to people in need," said Aviation Systems Warfare Operator 2nd Class (NAC) Brad Johnson, an air crewman for HM-15.
"You train like you fight, fight like you train," added Johnson.
While aboard for the crisis response exercise, HM-15 is responsible for offloading Marines to secure an area for use during crisis response, as well as other personnel and equipment.
"By getting [the Marines] to their location during this scenario, it allows us to have a secure perimeter to land so we can get personnel and supplies to the area," said HM-15 Leading Chief Petty Officer, Senior Chief Aviation Machinist's Mate (AW) Gary Dilts.
The crisis response exercise is being conducted Nov. 1-7 to enhance coalition forces' capabilities in case humanitarian assistance and disaster relief is requested from a regional nation in a time of crisis.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet, visit www.news.navy.mil/local/cusnc/.