Alameda Naval Air Museum

HM-15 "Blackhawks" Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron Fifteen

Squadron History

HM-15 Insignia
HM-15 "Blackhawks" Insignia

Helicopter 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.

MH-53E Sea Dragon Patch
MH-53E Sea Dragon Patch
Commanding Officers
Commanding OfficerDate Assumed Command
CDR Don F. BeachOCT 1985
CDR John W. Tennant APR 1987
CDR Gary P. TornatoreOCT 1988
CDR Keith W. MartelloDEC 1989
CDR Bruce F. RussellJAN 1991
CDR Brian E. DeweyFEB 1992
CDR Thomas B. DavilliMAY 1993
CDR William E. ShannonSEP 1994
CDR John F. VuoloSEP 1995
CDR John A. BrownSEP 1996
CDR Vito W. JimenezSEP 1997
CDR Dale HowellDEC 1998
CDR Robert F. RiehlMAR 2000
(HM-15) MH-53E "Sea Dragon" helicopter flys over the Pacific Ocean, after securing from minesweeping operations
A Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron Fifteen (HM-15) MH-53E "Sea Dragon" helicopter flys over the Pacific Ocean, after securing from minesweeping operations and heading back to Naval Air Station. Taken on 1 September 1990 by John R. Gaffney. ID# DN-ST-91-00230.
(HM-15) MH-53E "Sea Dragon" helicopter conducts mine countermeasures operations, in San Francisco Bay near Naval Air Station, Alameda
A Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron Fifteen (HM-15) MH-53E "Sea Dragon" helicopter conducts mine countermeasures operations, in San Francisco Bay near Naval Air Station, Alameda, California. Taken on 1 September 1990 by John R. Gaffney. ID# DN-ST-91-00231.
(HM-15) MH-53E "Sea Dragon" helicopter tows a Mark 105 hydrofoil sled
A Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 15 (HM-15) KH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter tows a Mark 105 hydrofoil sled as a rigid hull inflatable boat (RIB) maintains its position beside the sled during a minesweeping exercise, part of the joint US/South Korean Exercise VALIANT BLITZ'90. Taken on 1 January 1990 by PHC Carolyn Harris. ID# DN-ST-93-01690.
A crewman kneels atop the main rotor hub of an MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter from Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 15 (HM-15)
A crewman kneels atop the main rotor hub of an MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter from Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 15 (HM-15) while performing a maintenance check. Taken at NAS Alameda on 1 January 1989 by PH2 Grzezdinski. ID# DN-ST-89-11357.
 
MH-53E of HM-15 over the Golden Gate Bridge.  This same aircraft crashed in the Persian Gulf in 14 September 1991 with the loss of all aboard.
MH-53E of HM-15 over the Golden Gate Bridge. This same aircraft crashed in the Persian Gulf in 14 September 1991 with the loss of all aboard.
 
MK-105 minesweeping exercise in San Francisco Bay onboard U.S.S. Tripoli (LPH-10) -- 26 May 1989.
MK-105 minesweeping exercise in San Francisco Bay onboard U.S.S. Tripoli (LPH-10) -- 26 May 1989.
 
Minesweeping exercise onboard U.S.S. Tripoli (LPH-10) -- 26 May 1989.
Minesweeping exercise onboard U.S.S. Tripoli (LPH-10) -- 26 May 1989.
 
Minesweeping operations onboard the U.S.S. Tripoli (LPH-10) -- 26 May 1989.
Minesweeping operations onboard the U.S.S. Tripoli (LPH-10) -- 26 May 1989.
 
MH-53E Sea Dragon Helicopter of HM-15 departs U.S.S. Tripoli (LPH-10) during minesweeping operations -- 26 May 1989.
MH-53E Sea Dragon Helicopter of HM-15 departs U.S.S. Tripoli (LPH-10) during minesweeping operations -- 26 May 1989.
 
HM-15 minesweeping exercise onboard U.S.S. Tripoli (LPH-10) passing below Golden Gate Bridge on the way to Vancouver, British Columbia -- 26 May 1989.
HM-15 minesweeping exercise onboard U.S.S. Tripoli (LPH-10) passing below Golden Gate Bridge on the way to Vancouver, British Columbia -- 26 May 1989.
 

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Credit:Images and Squadron History provided by Mr. Robert M. Cieri and Mr. Andy J. West.