Friday, May 15, 2015

Harsh Weather Hampers Helo Recovery Mission in Nepal

By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, May 15, 2015 – Harsh weather conditions and darkness are hampering efforts in Nepal to recover the Marine Corps UH-1Y helicopter and its crew that went missing May 12.

Officials confirmed yesterday that the helicopter had crashed, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren told reporters today.

The helicopter reportedly carried six U.S. Marines and two Nepalese service members who were performing humanitarian efforts as part of “Operation Sahayogi Haat,” which means “Helping Hand” in Nepali.

“The terrain and the weather are exceptionally difficult,” Warren said. “At first light and [as] the weather clears, they’ll return to the crash site.”

The Marines on the helicopter are assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469.

Families Notified

Warren said no remains have been recovered as of several hours ago, although two sets of remains have been “visually” identified.

“The families [were] notified their loved ones were aboard the helicopter,” the colonel said, adding that family members are in touch with casualty assistance officers who will keep them continually updated.

In accordance with normal procedure, Warren said, 24 hours after remains are identified and family members are notified the names of the deceased will be made available.

The incident is under investigation, the colonel said. The Himalayan crash site, he said, is located about 8 miles north of Charikot, Nepal, at an elevation of more than 11,000 feet. High winds and harsh temperatures could have been factors in the crash, he said.

Earlier reports of radio chatter from the aircraft prior to the crash have not been confirmed, Warren said.

“We will just have to let this [investigation] develop,” he said.

Abraham Lincoln Officer Presents Plaque to Honor Pioneer Aviator

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Patrick Maher, USS Abraham Lincoln Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- Cmdr. Todd D. Tavolazzi, strike operations officer assigned to USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), presented a plaque on behalf of the Hampton Roads Navy League to Capt. Bob Clark, commanding officer of Naval Station Norfolk, during a ceremony commemorating Eugene Ely at Ely Hall, May 8.

Tavolazzi and Clark were joined by Capt. Ronald Ravelo, Lincoln commanding officer and Capt. Doug Beaver, executive officer of Naval Station Norfolk as they hung the plaque, which details the significance of Ely above a statue of his likeness in the building named for him.

On Nov. 14, 1910, Ely piloted the first aircraft to take off from a ship, the USS Birmingham (CL-2) in Hampton Roads. Ely would eventually land his aircraft safely on Willoughby Spit in Norfolk.

"When I was stationed as a junior officer at a helicopter squadron at Naval Station Norfolk from 2006-2011, the squadrons used to stay in a duty room in Ely Hall," Tavolazzi said. "Every time I would pass through the lobby I would see the lonely statue of Eugene Ely with nothing to inform anyone who he was and what his significance was for the U.S. Navy, naval aviation and Naval Station Norfolk in particular."

Seeing a problem, Tavolazzi then went forward to find a solution to get Ely the recognition that he deserved.

"I happened to speak to Maryellen Baldwin of the Navy League Hampton Roads about Naval history and Eugene Ely during the centennial of Naval Aviation commemoration events in 2010 and 2011," Tavolazzi said. "I mentioned that it was a shame that there was not an explanation of how important Eugene Ely was to naval aviation in the very building named after him."

Tavolazzi's efforts and teamwork with the Navy League were appreciated by Naval Station Norfolk leadership.

"This is the good stuff, the stuff we like to celebrate," Clark said. "When a Sailor notices something that needs to be changed, goes out and gets it done."

USS Helena Returns Home from Deployment

By Kevin Copeland, commander, Submarine Force Atlantic Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Helena (SSN 725) returned to its homeport at Naval Station Norfolk from a deployment May 15.

Under the command of Cmdr. Jeffrey E. Lamphear, the submarine returned from the U.S. European Command and U.S. Central Command areas of responsibility, where the crew executed the chief of naval operation's maritime strategy in conducting maritime security operations supporting national security interests.

During the deployment Helena steamed more than 38,500 nautical miles in conducting multiple missions vital to national security. In between taskings, they were able to conduct port visits in Bahrain; Gibraltar; Aksaz, Turkey; Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates; and Souda Bay, Crete.

"The crew performed exceptionally well during their six-month deployment," said Lamphear, who will relinquish command of Helena on June 15. "They demonstrated the submarine force's professionalism and dedication while showcasing the submarine's endurance, reach, and multi-mission capability. Without any external logistical support, the Helena crew conducted extended operations and successfully completed all mission taskings. This could not have been done without the extraordinary efforts and skills of the crew. We also enjoyed some well-deserved liberty, providing a visible demonstration of the U.S. commitment to our allies and promoting stability in the regions visited."

Despite the high operational tempo during the deployment, some the Helena crew was able to attain personal and professional milestones.

"We had seven Sailors advanced to petty officer third class, seven to petty officer second class and two to petty officer first class," said Lamphear. "We also had 29 enlisted Sailors achieve their submarine warfare qualifications and earned their silver dolphins, and had seven officers earn their gold dolphins after becoming submarine warfare qualified.

"In addition, since Helena has been underway we had five babies born stateside, so the new fathers are eager to see their sons and daughters upon return. And that is what our first focus will be in returning home. We want to ensure that our Sailors get the down-time they deserve to recharge and reconnect with family and friends."

Fast-attack submarines like USS Helena are multi-mission platforms enabling five of the six Navy maritime strategy core capabilities - sea control, power projection, forward presence, maritime security, and deterrence.

The submarine is designed to excel in anti-submarine warfare; anti-ship warfare; strike warfare; special operations; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; irregular warfare; and mine warfare - from open ocean anti-submarine warfare to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to projecting power ashore with special operation forces and Tomahawk cruise missiles in the prevention or preparation of regional crises.

Helena is the 38th Los Angeles-class attack submarine and fourth ship to bear the name of the capital city, Helena, Montana. The submarine was built by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation, Groton, Connecticut, and commissioned July 11, 1987. The 360-foot ship has a current crew compliment of 15 officers and 129 enlisted Sailors, and displaces more than 7,100 tons of water.