HSC-26 Command History
The heritage of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26 can be traced back to Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey, where the second United States Naval helicopter squadron was commissioned in 1948 as Helicopter Utility Squadron TWO (HU-2). In 1960, HU-2 was split into two new squadrons, establishing HU-4. In 1967, HU-4 was re-designated as the “Chargers” of Helicopter Combat Support Squadron SIX (HC-6). Initially manned by only five officers and 20 Sailors, HC-6’s primary mission was providing search and rescue (SAR) for the fleet. With the introduction of the HH-46 Sea Knight in the late 1960s, HC-6’s mission expanded to include vertical replenishment (VERTREP).
From the beginning, HC-6 distinguished itself in operations across the globe, including in Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM. The squadron operated forward continuously, supporting both Carrier Battle Groups and Amphibious Ready Groups, working with units from both coasts of the United States. In 2002, HC-6 became the first East Coast squadron to retire the HH-46 and transition to the MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter, taking the new aircraft to sea aboard the USNS Mount Baker (T-AE-34) that year. HC-6 overcame every manpower and material challenge presented, paving the way for other squadrons to transition to the MH-60S. The Chargers wasted no time proving the search and rescue capabilities of the Knighthawk, logging the first MH-60S rescue on September 7, 2002.
In 2005, HC-6 was officially re-designated as Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26 (HSC-26), when the Helicopter Anti-Submarine (HS) and Helicopter Combat Support (HC) communities merged. That same year, the squadron relieved the legendary “Desert Ducks” of HC-2 Detachment ONE in Manama, Bahrain. Re-branded the “Desert Hawks”, HSC-26 Detachment ONE continues to provide Combat Support missions to include Combat Logistics, Personnel Recovery, Special Operations Forces Support, Maritime ISR, and Maritime Attack to U.S. and Coalition forces in the FIFTH Fleet Area of Responsibility.
HSC-26 was a consistent presence during the Global War on Terror, participating in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, ENDURING FREEDOM, and countless other deployments around the world. By 2010, HSC-26 had grown to 20 helicopters and 430 Sailors. In 2014, HSC-26 was chosen as the first MH-60S squadron to field Organic Airborne Mine-Countermeasures (OAMCM) mission sets. In 2015, HSC-26 Detachment TWO became the first MH-60S deployment aboard the USS Independence (LCS 2), supporting international mine countermeasures exercises. In 2017, HSC-26 Detachment THREE expanded Amphibious Ready Group capabilities, providing the first fixed-forward-firing rocket and strafe qualified crews to the USS Bataan (LHD 5). In 2018, HSC-26 Detachment ONE participated in Operation NOBLE BOUNTY, conducting Surface Surveillance and Coordination (SSC) operations in the Arabian Gulf amid heightened regional tensions. In 2019, HSC-26 participated in Operation FORMIDABLE SHIELD, a multi-nation integrated air and ballistic missile defense exercise in the SIXTH Fleet Area of Responsibility. Detachment ONE also conducted SSC and Restricted Water Transit training with the Bahraini Navy, strengthening combined unit interoperability and cohesion. In 2020, HSC-26 provided indispensable support to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 21 (HX-21) by operationally testing the Disputed Aperture Infrared Countermeasure System, which will provide enhanced protection against infrared missile threats for MH-60S aircraft across the Fleet.
In addition to supporting operational mission sets, the Chargers have always stood ready to answer the call for Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations, both at home and abroad. In 2005, HSC-26 supported Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, and DET ONE supported airlift operations following a deadly earthquake in Pakistan. In 2010, the Chargers provided assistance following an earthquake in Haiti and in 2012, to the Northeastern United States following Superstorm Sandy. In 2017, following the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Maria, HSC-26 was once again called upon to provide invaluable support to the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico onboard the USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) as part of a composite squadron with aircraft from other HSC Wing Atlantic commands. In 2019, HSC-26 DET THREE assisted in a Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) mission, providing aid and disaster relief to the victims of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas, relocating over 150 survivors. HSC-26 also expertly executed a short-notice DSCA mission to support victims of Hurricane Florence.
Since its inception, HSC-26 has been consistently recognized for excellence, receiving multiple awards of the Battle E, the CNO Safety Award, the Sikorsky Golden Wrench for Maintenance Excellence, the Medical Blue "M" for medical readiness, and the Golden Anchor for retention excellence. The Chargers continue to distinguish their squadron through professionalism, expertise, and readiness: deploying forward to meet the needs of the Navy and the nation.