Petty Officer 2nd Class Lee Kersell helps to move sea bags after a three-month deployment on the USS Kitty Hawk.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Lee Kersell helps to move sea bags after a three-month deployment on the USS Kitty Hawk. (Jim Schulz / S&S)

ATSUGI NAVAL AIR FACILITY, Japan — There was plenty of celebratory cake for the 212 members of HS-14 during their recent three-month spring tour aboard the USS Kitty Hawk.

The Chargers of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 14 earned three awards, passed a major milestone, aced a key inspection and saved three lives.

The squadron began its carrier tour on a strong note — one day into the voyage, it performed the first of two medical evacuations, each one saving the life of a seriously ill sailor.

Members of the squadron later rescued a sailor who fell overboard during night operations.

The squadron also passed a key safety mark in March, achieving nine years and 31,000 flight hours without a Class “A” mishap.

The squadron went on to earn two anti-submarine warfare awards: the Adm. “Jimmy” Thatch award for best carrier-based squadron Navy-wide, and the Capt. Arnold Jay Isbell Anti-Submarine Warfare Award for best anti-submarine squadron in the Pacific.

The awards are for proficiency, recognizing the amount of time the squadron had contact with submarines. The Chargers’ mission includes anti-submarine warfare, naval special warfare and search-and-rescue and combat search-and-rescue.

The squadron completed its winning streak by earning the coveted Battle E — marking it as the most efficient overall among anti-sub squadrons on the West Coast.

The award considers maintenance practices, safety, operations, flight hours and a list of other areas.

“Out of all the awards, that one really is the most cherished,” said the squadron’s commander, Cmdr. Baxter Goodly. “It’s a great feeling getting them all. It’s fairly rare.”

All three are awards for last year, when the squadron participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

HS-14 was the only squadron in the air wing to perform a combat search-and-rescue mission, when it found and recovered the remains of fellow air wing pilot Lt. Nathan White, a member of VFA Squadron 195.

Between Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, the squadron flew about 1,000 combat hours.

“2003 was very busy for us,” Goodly said.

The squadron will officially celebrate the awards at a ceremony in June, receiving a plaque for the Thatch and a trophy for the Isbell. Each squadron member also earns a ribbon and patch for the Battle E.

“We were surprised. We really wanted that Battle E award,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Elmer Araza, an aviation machinist’s mate.

The award reflects the squadron’s hard work and bolsters its reputation, he said.

“It’s just been a good year for us,” said Chief Petty Officer Mark Mitchum, an aviation warfare systems operator and rescue swimmer.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Sarah Rosenberg said the squadron always works hard with hopes of earning the Battle E.

“This time we were just doing our jobs and we got it,” she said. “We deserve it for sure. It’s a surprise that everyone else realized it, too.”

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