Cmdr. Erik H. Gustafson
A native of Bronxville, New York, Commander Erik H. “Gus” Gustafson graduated with merit from the United States Naval Academy in 2005, earning a Bachelor of Science in Systems Engineering. He “winged” as a naval aviator in January 2007 and then reported to Chambers Field, Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, for initial training in the MH-60S Knighthawk.
Gustafson’s operational flying began with the “Chargers” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 26, where he deployed twice to the Kingdom of Bahrain in support of Commander, Task Force (TF) 53 and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He later joined the “Dusty Dogs” of HSC-7, already deployed with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3 onboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. There he served as the tactics officer. He completed his department head tour with the “Tridents” of HSC-9, where he served as administrative officer, training officer, and maintenance officer. The squadron deployed with CVW-8 onboard USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77) in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. In July 2021, he reported to the “Nightdippers” of HSC-5 as the executive officer and assumed command in September 2022 while deployed with CVW-7 onboard USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) in support of NATO peacekeeping.
Ashore, Gustafson was an instructor with Helicopter Sea Combat Weapons School Atlantic (HSCWSL). In addition to serving as operations officer, he led development of tactics and training requirements for three weapons systems rapidly fielded to the MH-60S airframe. He additionally completed a joint tour with Special Operations Command South where he served as the J-5 special plans officer, great power competition cross-functional team lead, and executive aide to the commander.
Gustafson is a graduate of the Navy Rotary Wing Weapons School (SEAWOLF), Air Command and Staff College, and University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler School of Business (earning a Master of Business Administration). He has accumulated more than 3,000 hours in naval aircraft thanks to the heroic efforts of the finest Sailors in the Fleet. His decorations include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal and various other personal, unit, and campaign awards. He has been recognized as HSC-26 Pilot of the Year, HSCWSL Instructor of the Year, HSC Tactician of the Year, and most recently as a winner of the 2021 Navy and Marine Corps Leadership Award.