More than 100 pilots, maintainers, and aircrew personnel assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 9 the “Tridents”, based out of Naval Station (NS) Norfolk are conducting a nine-day unit-level training in the Appalachian Mountains, Sept. 25-Oct. 4.
Other services such as the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, and the 130th Air National Guard utilize the West Virginia National Guard Hobet All-Hazards Training Center located in Charleston, which is a little more than an hour’s flight from Norfolk. The area provides a unique training opportunity for HSC-9 personnel.
In June 2019, the Yeager Airport’s flight center was renamed the Hershel “Woody” Williams Military Flight Operations Center after retired United States Marine Corps warrant officer and Medal of Honor recipient from Quiet Dell.
HSC-9 Operations Officer Lt. Cmdr. John Rashap, a native of Randolph, New Jersey, earned his officer commissioning from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2007, and appreciates the ongoing support from the 130th Air National Guard and Yeager Airport in providing assistance in space allocation during their training event for their unit.
“They have been extremely helpful and forward leaning in allowing us to get what we need to set-up a detachment,” said Rashap, who explained the uniqueness of training environment to include minimal vertical obstructions such as phone towers or power lines provide ample opportunities for effective training. “This training environment is a bit novel for HSC squadrons, while other squadrons have flown through this area before, this marks the first time they have providing multiple training locations near the airfield for our utilization.”
Having that access near the airfield and utilizing the Yeager Airport’s hangar space is crucial for the squadron’s maintainers who can complete their required maintenance without being impacted by weather elements.
HSC-9 Commanding Officer Cmdr. Michael Marks also appreciates the community’s response during their training event adding how these types of experiences are game changing for their entire crew.
“Any time you can do something different then just routine it will widen your aperture for experience,” said Marks, who also appreciated the support from the city, 130th Air National Guard, and officials at Yeager Airport. “Operating out of our own assigned hanger during this training event is conducive for effective maintenance requirements.”
The training HSC-9 pilots have access to include the surface coal mine sites that provide anywhere from several thousand acres up to over 25,000 acres for training.
“Some units simply wish to land in the dirt and experience brown out conditions, which is very difficult to do at their home stations,” said Nick Keller, Yeager Airport director, and Central West Virginia Regional Airport Authority, who added that allied nations utilize the area for training to include all five of the military services.