Salty Hawks

Airmen and HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters from the 56th Rescue Squadron at RAF Lakenheath, England, are testing their sea legs by deploying aboard the USS Ponce, a Navy amphibious transport dock ship operating off the coast of Libya in the Mediterranean Sea. They are there sitting on alert to rescue any coalition aircrews that go down supporting Operation Odyssey Dawn. “We’re covering US and other coalition forces as this is a big, joint endeavor,” said 56th RQS pilot Lt. Col. Mark Ahrens. In addition to few spare parts, confined spaces, and constant deck movement, these airmen have found operating their HH-60s in a marine environment challenging. “The salt is one of the worst things I’ve seen,” explained crew chief SSgt. Garrett Fillingham, noting that the Pave Hawks require almost daily washing. The Lakenheath airmen arrived on the Ponce late last month. (USS Ponce report by Navy MC1C Nathanael Miller)