Cmdr. Erik H. Gustafson
A native of Bronxville, New York, Cmdr. Erik H. Gustafson graduated with merit from the United States Naval Academy in 2005, where he earned 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 53 and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He later joined the “Dusty Dogs” of HSC-7, already deployed with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3 aboard 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 aboard 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.
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 most recently completed a joint tour with Special Operations Command South, Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida. There 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 (level 1), and University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler School of Business (earning a Master of Business Administration). He has accumulated more than 2,600 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 and unit awards. He has been recognized at the community-level, including HSC-26 Pilot of the Year, HSCWSL Instructor of the Year, and HSC Tactician of the Year.