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

31 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

    2. I was a military wife stationed with my ex husband who was a CO from 1990-1992. It was an interesting time. Thank you for serving.

    3. Hi wheeler, not sure if you remeber me. i Served with you. Hope yo
      ur doing well. I’m retired now. Good to see your name.


    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.

      1. When I checked in at Norfolk at the beginning of 1987, there were about 20 guys already there. Clarence, were you already there when I checked in? I seem to remember you, but that was too long ago. We had a Mil-Van next to HM-12’s hanger, but not much else. We didn’t have a bird to break yet, though, and weren’t an official squadron yet, either. Most of us were sent TAD to HM-12’s “1st Lt.” shop until we had a FRAC/FRAMP class around May that year, I believe. I remember the excitement when we finally got a helo to work on! I think most of us were completely trained out by then. It seemed like time sprinted by. I didn’t care much for Norfolk, but did enjoy Alameda.

  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

    1. I was in alameda from 1989 to 1992. I got out, then came back when they were getting ready to move to corpus. I was one of the first people in corpus. We worked out of this small building by the golf course. It was a tough transition but corpus was great to us. There are several of us that made corpus or home. I retired in 2011 and moved back to corpus in 2017. I’d love to get back to alameda one day to where it all began for me.

  4. Served at NAS Alameda with HM-15 from Aug. 1988 through July 1992 as Aircrew and worked Air Frames Shop. My first earthquake was a month and a half after arriving (Loma Prieta) and was involved with earthquake relief operations as well deployment to Bahrain for Persian Gulf Operations.

  5. I served in HM-15 from 91 to 94 in the AE shop and aircrewman. I had many good times and also shared some sad ones with my brothers.
    Had a great softball team coached by the one and only Tony San Felippe. Merry Xmas Blackhawks!
    AE2(AW)AMCM Lee “Leebo” Fallis

  6. I was stationed at this amazing base in my early twenties ! Some of the best times I ever had fixing cockpit instruments for MH-53 Helicopters and A-6 attack planes before they were decommissioned. This experience paved the way for my lifelong career in aviation to which I am still apart of. So grateful for the experience.

  7. CDR. Martello was the best Skipper I ever had. I learned everything about honor and duty under his command and being a team player from all of the excellent men in this squadron. Once a Blackhawk, Always a Blackhawk!

  8. If anyone has pictures from ’86 to ’90, care to share them with me? I used to be called, “Big Lew,” if that helps anyone remember me? I have no pictures but would love to recapture some memories. I was part of the originating crew in Norfolk, went through HM-12/HM-15 combined FRAC/FRAMP school and got my Plane Captain certs then worked the line. I did the homeport change to Alameda and worked both the powerplants shop and on the line as a Plane Capt.
    until my clumsy backside took a bad fall and the Navy retired me to home in the spring of 1990.

  9. I do still have a lot of pictures I took during my tenure with HM-15. Fond memories. Will share with anyone who’s interested. Just email me.

    1. Hi Andy, this is Vicky Barker from years ago in the Navy. I would really like to hear from you.

  10. Such a shame we had to move to Corpus Christi. Nothing wrong with the move itself, just Alameda was such a great place to fly around.
    Cheers to all former Blackhawks. John F. Vuolo former CO of HM-15.

    1. Hi hey Tom my name is James Caffall
      I remember serving with you me and Everett Newman were all in the same shop together.

  11. I served at NAS Alameda from 91-93. I loved it and would do it all over again. Definitely miss all my fellow brothers. Once a Blackhawk, always a Blackhawk

  12. Hello all. I am a HM-15 Plankowner who elected to move over from HM-14 when 15 was commissioned in Norfolk. 1987-1990… Andy DeGroot, how are you doing? I still think about you from time to time. Greg Mosher, good to see you’re still around. I recognize the name Thomas Crumley, but can’t see a face. Hope to talk to some of you again.

    Kolin McIntire
    AVCM(AW/NAC), USN, Retired

  13. Hi my name is James Caffalll and I’m a plank owners with HM-15 Blackhawks joined up joined up with them in Norfolk Virginia and got out after we were in Alameda California like to hear from any other plank owners.

  14. Hey Commander Evans this is James Caffall pr3 I don’t know if you remember me but you had a big influence on my life I hope you’re doing well.

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