Written by Lt. Cmdr. J. Sky Holm, Coast Guard Cutter Venturous executive officer
The Coast Guard’s ability to complete missions across the globe is contingent upon capable platforms and, most importantly, Coast Guard members with the proper skills, knowledge, and experience.
Prior to deployments, Coast Guard cutters and aircraft crews hone their proficiency through rigorous training programs and practice. Providing the most realistic and high fidelity training environment to practice shipboard helicopter operations, Coast Guard Cutter Venturous led a Deck Qualification Landing (DLQ) exercise, also known as a DLQ Roundup, off the coast of Miami.
“Operating with cutter-based helicopters allows the Coast Guard to expand search capabilities, but landing a helicopter on our flight deck it is one of the most dangerous things we do,” said Lt. Lelea Seymour, operations officer of Venturous. “DLQ Roundup provided both aviators and cutter personnel the opportunity to practice the skills needed to safely accomplish our missions.”
Collaboration and teamwork were on full display as members from Coast Guard cutters Spencer, Seneca, Valiant, and Diligence reported aboard the Venturous to learn and practice the cutter side of helicopter operations. Aircrews from Coast Guard air stations Miami, Traverse City, and Corpus Christi, as well as an aircrew from Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) were staged out of Coast Guard Air Station Miami to learn and practice landing the Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter on Venturous’s flight deck.
While cutter members on the flight deck practiced their hand signals to direct the helicopter to safe landings, secure the helicopter to the flight deck, and safely refuel it, while others on the cutter’s bridge, learned how to direct and safely execute the operations.
Dolphin helicopter instructor pilots coached their trainees in the difficult and delicate art of guiding the helicopter within the 24-foot diameter touchdown circle, ensuring proper rotor obstruction clearance and positioning of the “tail stinger” over the flight deck.
“It is amazing what the Coast Guard can accomplish when we work together,” said Chief Petty Officer Antony Grullon, the senior member in charge of the personnel on the flight deck.
The cutter and the air crews completed 165 evolutions, including landings, take-offs, touch-and-gos, and on-deck refueling. Several of the evolutions were conducted at night in complete darkness using only night vision goggles.
Preparing for the worst the crews also practiced their response in the event of a helicopter crash on deck.
“Both cutter and aircraft personnel performed superbly, demonstrating professionalism and enthusiasm throughout the DLQ Roundup,” said Cmdr. Mike Gesele, commanding officer of Venturous. “Although the weather prevented completion of some of the evolutions, the return on investment will be felt with increased proficiency of both cuttermen and aircrews.”
Coast Guard cutters and aircraft have proven to be an incredible force in thwarting illicit traffickers, setting records in 2016 for counternarcotics operations. The Coast Guard trains as a team because is executes missions as a team. Events like the DLQ Roundup emphasize teamwork and collaboration while developing professional competence and enabling future mission success.