Det. 2, 58th OG inactivated after nearly three years of standing up HH-60W formal training program at Kirtland AFB

  • Published
  • By John Cochran
  • 377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

After nearly three years of intense effort to establish the Air Force’s first HH-60W “Jolly Green II” helicopter formal training program, Detachment 2 of the 58th Operations Group at Kirtland Air Force Base was inactivated in a ceremony June 3, where Col Meghan Ripple, 58th Operations Group commander, presided.

The small cadre of Airmen – starting with a program integration office of three people, and never having more than eight at a time, totaling 12 during the life of the detachment – was activated Aug. 23, 2019. As a key element of the new aircraft’s overall $8.4 billion program, their mission was to lay the foundation for the successful training of pilots and special mission aviators who will be the future of combat search and rescue for the Air Force, other services, allies and partners.

In addition to performing the operational and administrative duties of a typical flying training unit, and while carrying out instructor duties in the 512th Rescue Squadron, Det. 2 staff performed a multitude of functions, all during the Covid-19 pandemic. They received seven of a projected 14 new aircraft, designed and oversaw the construction and acceptance of a simulator building, coordinated the delivery of a new $24 million full-motion weapon system trainer, and created and validated eight training syllabi with 1,500 pages of technical data, and thousands of hours of course data.

Describing the intensity, variety and scope of mission requirements, Lt. Col. Brian Dicks, the first commander of Det. 2 and current commander of the 512th RQS, said, “Every day, there was another pop-up hot tasker we had to nail down.”

Upon delivery of the first HH-60W to Kirtland AFB on Dec. 17, 2020, Col. Michael Curry, 58th Special Operations Wing commander, said, “This helicopter greatly increases our capabilities to train mission-ready aircrews, and also provides better abilities for our 512th Rescue Squadron and the entire personnel recovery and special operations communities. The diversity of aircrew training opportunities in New Mexico provides training conditions similar to current or potential operational conditions, ensuring Airmen are prepared for any worldwide mission they are tasked to perform.”

Det. 2’s third and final commander, Maj. Pat Mount, attributed the success of the program to effective teamwork and senior leadership support.

Mount said he had many people to thank.

“Getting to the point where we are conducting programmed flying training at Kirtland has been a Total Force effort. The 58th Training Squadron lent their simulator expertise, contract instructors helped us refine academics and syllabi, and we've had excellent support from staff at 19th Air Force and Air Combat Command to overcome some major hurdles. The detachment could not have been successful in this endeavor without the help of the entire team,” he said.

With the Det. 2 inactivation, the 512th RQS takes over the HH-60W’s programmed flying training, and the 58th Training Squadron is now responsible for simulator operations.

Initial HH-60W instructors – selected from a pool of experienced aviators – received their training from the aircraft manufacturer in Florida.

The HH-60W, built by Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., features advanced and improved defensive systems, vulnerability reduction, hover performance, electrical capacity, avionics, cooling, weapons, cyber-security, environmental and net-centric requirements.

The “Jolly Green II” is named after the Vietnam-era HH-3E “Jolly Green” and HH-53 “Super Jolly Green,” whose crews pioneered the combat search and rescue mission. At Kirtland, the helicopter is employed as part of the 58th SOW’s current aircraft fleet, joining the CV-22, HC-130J, MC-130J, UH-1N, TH-1H, and HH-60G platforms.

For the operational squadrons that the aircrews who train at Kirtland will join, the primary mission of the HH-60W helicopter will be conducting day or night combat search and rescue operations into hostile environments to recover isolated personnel during war.

The HH-60W will also be tasked to perform military operations other than war, including civil search and rescue, medical evacuation, disaster response, humanitarian assistance, security cooperation/aviation advisory, NASA space flight support, and rescue command and control.