HM-15 “Blackhawks” Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Home » NAS Units » HM-15 “Blackhawks” Helicopter Mine Countermeasures

hm-15-blackhawks-patchHelicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron FIFTEEN (HM-15) “Blackhawks” was established on 2 January 1987 at Naval Air Station Norfolk, Virginia. The first of two deployable, Airborne Mine Countermeasures (AMCM) squadrons to receive the Sikorsky MH-53E “Sea Dragon” helicopter. On 21 April 1987, HM-15 was ordered by the CNO to change duty stations to Naval Air Station Alameda, California. HM-15 began initial flight operations in July 1987, with the receipt of their first MH-53E. On 28 September 1987, three squadron aircraft departed NAS Norfolk and arrived at NAS Alameda on 1 October 1987, officially reporting for duty under operational and administrative control of Commander, Anti-Submarine Warfare Wing, U.S. Pacific Fleet.

November 1987 marked a major flight training milestone for HM-15, as initial AMCM flight training commenced, employing the MK-105 Magnetic, Influence Minesweeping System (Hydrofoil), the MK-104 Acoustic, Influence Minesweeping System and the ANISPU-1W Shallow-Water, Magnetic, Influence Minesweeping System. In December, the squadron disassembled and loaded two MH-53E helicopters into a USAF C-5A Galaxy aircraft, certifying the “Sea Dragon” air transport capability for the Navy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

From January to June of 1988, squadron flight and ground training continued to focus heavily on AMCM operations, using the ANIAQS-14 Side-Scan Minehunting Sonar System and the MK-103 Mechanical Minesweeping System. By June, the squadron had developed requisite proficiency in all mission areas.

In July 1988, HM-15 successfully completed a Mine Warfare Readiness Certification Inspection (MRCI). In October 1988, the first squadron detachment deployed to NAS North Island to conduct minesweeping operations. In September 1989, the squadron embarked onboard USS Tripoli (LPH-10) for PACEX-89, a joint exercise conducted throughout WESTPAC with allies Japan, Korea, and the Republic of the Philippines.

In October 1989, HM-15 exercised its secondary mission of vertical onboard delivery by providing airlift for disaster relief efforts following the devastating Loma Prieta earthquake, which effected the San Francisco Bay Area, thereby earning the Humanitarian Service Medal.

From January 1991 through April 1992, HM-15 deployed a three aircraft, 100-man detachment to the Persian Gulf in direct support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The “Blackhawks” transported over 3.2 million pounds of cargo and more than 4,000 personnel in support of combat units in the theater.

During mid-1994, the CNO directed the reshaping of the AMCM force structure by ordering the integration of the BLACKHAWKS of HM-15 with its reserve sister squadron, the GOLDEN BEARS of HM-19. HM-19 was disestablished on 17 September 1994, with the integrated squadron maintaining the HM-15 designation, mascot and insignia. The integration was completed on 5 November 1994.

In 1995, HM-15 was awarded the Chief of Naval Operations Safety Award and a second Meritorious Unit Commedation, as well as the Battle Efficiency Award.

With the slated closure of NAS Alameda on 30 June 1996, the permanent duty station of HM-15 was officially moved to Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas, after nearly nine years of operations under Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Commanding Officer Date Assumed Command
CDR Don F. Beach OCT 1985
CDR John W. Tennant APR 1987
CDR Gary P. Tornatore OCT 1988
CDR Keith W. Martello DEC 1989
CDR Bruce F. Russell JAN 1991
CDR Brian E. Dewey FEB 1992
CDR Thomas B. Davilli MAY 1993
CDR William E. Shannon SEP 1994
CDR John F. Vuolo SEP 1995
CDR John A. Brown SEP 1996
CDR Vito W. Jimenez SEP 1997
CDR Dale Howell DEC 1998
CDR Robert F. Riehl MAR 2000
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— provided by Mr. Robert M. Cieri and Mr. Andy J. West

8 thoughts on “HM-15 “Blackhawks” Helicopter Mine Countermeasures

    1. Hi. We have all kinds of pictures of people, WITHOUT NAMES. We have not digitized those that have reference information. Good luck finding your people. When in Alameda, come visit us. Veterans are always welcome and admission for them is always free.

      Regards, Robbie Dileo, Secretary


    1. Kraig, thank you for your service keeping our aircraft up. We had a time of it, especially in CC with the wind and the salt spray. Cheers, JFV

  2. I was an HM-15 Plank Owner, was on Pacex-89. My ex-wife was a Plank Owner in HM-19, an AK-2 who ordered and stowed all the equipment to stand up the Golden Bears, and one of first 5 women to deploy on a US Aircraft Carrier for Reserve Carrier Quals.

  3. Moving HM-15 to Corpus Christi, Texas was not a very popular move. We enjoyed our stay in Northern California. However Texans opened their arms for us and we ended up doing well there. But wouldn’t you know it, we ended back where it all began anyways, Norfolk, VA.
    Once a Blackhawk, always a Blackhawk.
    John F. Vuolo
    Former Commanding Officer of HM-15
    CAPT USN Retired

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