Helicopter Mine Countermeasures
In the beginning, Aviators, aircremen and maintenance personnel were receiving orders throughout the Naval Aviation community to report to Helicopter Combat Support Squadron SIX (HC-6) Detachment 53. Some of the seasoned pilots were combat experienced aviators that served with Helicopter Assault Light THREE (HAL-3) Seawolves in Vietnam, while the aircrew and maintenance personnel came from various aviation squadrons throughout the fleet. These men and their two (2) CH-53A (Marine green) aircraft would soon form the first Airborne Mine Countermeasures Squadron in the U.S. Navy.
Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron TWELVE (HM-12) was commissioned on 1 April 1971 at Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Virginia. From the squadron's initial compliment of 34 officers and 108 enlisted personnel, and four (4) CH-53A helicopters, it developed into a community of five squadron's (HM-12, HM-14, HM-15, HM-18 and HM-19). Being the first squadron of it's kind in the world, it had the unique position of functioning both as an operational unit and as a readiness training squadron. The primary mission of the Airborne Mine Countermeasures (AMCM) community remains to provide the U.S. Navy with a world-wide, quick reaction mine countermeasures capability. This rapid mobility is obtained by global deployment of operationally trained and ready airborne mine countermeasures squadrons aboard U.S. Air Force C-5A Galazy and C-141 "Starlifter" aircraft. HELMINERON TWELVE was charged with the responsibility for replacement training of all RH-53D personnel in the Navy.
On October 8 1971, about one hundred officers and men of the Mobile Mine Countermeasures Command and four (4) CH-53 "Sea Stallion" helicopters, were airlifted from Norfolk, Virginia and Charleston, South Carolina, to the Sixth Fleet at Souda Bay, Crete by C-5's of the 437th Military Airlift Wing in a demonstration of the world-wide quick reaction mine countermeasures capability.
A detachment of four (4) CH-53A's from HM-12 recorded the first overseas deployment of the new helicopter. The detachment began sweeping operations, after being airlifted by C-5A Galaxies from Charleston, South Carolina, to Suada Bay, Crete. From 2 to 7 November 1971, the squadron participated in the first integration of airborne minesweeping operations into an amphibious assualt exercise. The operations were conducted from USS Coronado.
The second major test of the squadron's operational
capability came in November 1972, when word was received to prepare for immediate
deployment of the entire squadron to the Western Pacific. Within ten days,
all preparations were completed, and the Unit was airlifted by C-5A and C-141B
aircraft to the Naval Air Station, Cubi Point, Republic of the Philippines,
to participate in Operation ENDSWEEP, the clearing
of mines from the harbors and coastal waters of North Vietnam. As part of
Task Force Seventy-Eight (TF-78), the squadron entered the waters of North
Vietnam and flew its first wartime operational minesweeping mission in Haiphong
Harbor on 27 February 1973. The first live mine was detonated on 9 March
and marked another first for Naval Aviation history.
After Operation ENDSWEEP terminated in July 1973, the squadron returned to Norfolk, and immediately began transition to the Sikorsky RH-53D "Sea Stallion" helicopter, the first helicopter expressly designed and built for airborne mine countermeasures.
In April 1974, orders were received to prepare for another major operational deployment, Operation NIMBUS STAR, the clearance of mines from the Suez Canal. When mine clearing operations were completed, the Suez Canal and associated lakes were considered 99% clear of active mines. The squadron returned to Norfolk in June of 1974.
In July 1975, an HM-12 detachment once again returned to the Mediterranean to participate in Operation NIMBUS STREAM, the clearing of mines from the coastal waters of the United Arab Republic of Egypt. Following the successful completion of Operation NIMBUS STREAM in October, HM-12 Detachemnt TWO deployed to Naval Air Facility, Sigonella, Sicily, until January 1976 for vertical onboard delivery (VOD) operations in support of U.S. ships assigned to the Sixth Fleet.
In addition to the operational deployments to the Western Pacific and Mediterranean, HM-12 has provided services for nuclear weapons transshipment, carrier offloads, development projects, airshow displays and demonstrations, as well as college recruiting programs. HM-12 has maintained its readiness through numerous training exercises here in Norfolk and at various locations on the West and East coasts. In November 1975, HM-12 began training pilots and aircrewmen of the Imperial Iranian Navy in Airborne Mine Countermeasures procedures. These pilots and crewmen formed the backbone of an AMCM squadron in Iran.
May 1978 marked the redesignation of Mine Countermeasures Unit ALPHA and HM-12 Detachment ONE, forming HM-14. Mine Countermeasures Unit BRAVO and HM-12 Detachment TWO was redesignated HM-16 in October 1978. HM-12 maintained formal replacement training for the AMCM community providing the CNO Fleet Readiness Aviation Maintenance Personnel (FRAMP) course and the training of Fleet Replacement Aircrew (FRAC).
On 30 April 1979, yet another HM-12 first was accomplished and in this
case a Navy first as well. The pilots and crew (LCDR John Yearwood, Lt Rod
Davis, Lt Bill Meeley, Lt Harry De Butts, Lt Lou Morris, AE1 J.R. Stanley,
AD1 R.L. Anderson and AMS2 A.W. Sorenson) of helicopter 430 flew non-stop
from NAS Norfolk, Virginia to NAS North Island, California. Utilizing five
air-to-air refuelings from a C-130 Hercules aircraft and 18.5 hours the aircraft
established a presendence for long distance non-stop flights.
In the spring of 1983, HM-12 took delivery of the Navy's first CH-53E "Super Stallion" aircraft, the largest and most powerful aircraft in the western world. The "Super Stallion" is used as a Vertical Onboard Delivery (VOD) aircraft, responsible for carrier battle group support around the globe.
From December 1983 to April 1987 the squadron served as home base for HM-12 Sea Detachment, an independent contingent of personnel tasked with providing logistics support to the fleet units along the east coast and throughout the Caribbean. Operating two CH-53E aircraft, the "Hawlin Hogs" served with disinction, receiving two Meritorious Unit Comendations within the brief span of three years. In the spring of 1987 the Sea Detachment personnel and aircraft merged with elements of neighboring units to establish Helicopter Combat Support Squadron TWO (HC-2), a composite fleet support squadron.
May 28, 1987 marked yet another significant milestone in the squadron's
history with the arrival of its first MH-53E "Sea Dragon" helicopter, a potent
addition to the Navy's mine countermeasures arsenal. Technologically superior
to its predecessor, the MH-53E represents a guantum leap forward for the
HM-12, as a Fleet Replacement Squadron, trained and qualified 768 pilots, 1,200 aircrew and 11,900 maintenance personnel. In addition, they logged over 75,000 mishap-free flight hours, and completed over 23 years of mishap-free operations, giving HM-12 an unsurpassed safety record in the helicopter community.
HM-12 was officially decommissioned on 30 September 1994, but her personnel still serve the AMCM community as high ranking Naval officers, senior aircrew and maintenance personnel and logistics support contractors. There will never be another squadron like HUM DOZEN!
Last revised on 29 August, 1999 © Airborne Mine Countermeasures Association, Virginia Beach, Virginia. Barry Marple - Webmaster. All rights reserved.