News | March 23, 2023

World Famous Vanguard of HM-14 Fly Final Flight

The “World Famous Vanguard” of Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 14 flew the final flight of the squadron Dec. 8, 2022, in Norfolk, Virginia.

After nearly 45 years of service, flying the RH-53D Sea Stallion and the MH-53E Sea Dragon, the Vanguard is officially disestablishing in July 2023. The Sailors of HM-14 have served and flown on every continent in the world over that span and have been a part of numerous critical military operations. With the Navy’s decision to develop and field new technologies and approaches to Mine Countermeasures Ships (MCM), to include a family of manned and unmanned systems, the mighty MH-53E Sea Dragon is entering its final years of service.

HM-14 is the first of the Navy’s two operational MH-53E squadrons to disestablish. Throughout its history, the squadron underwent numerous changes to its manning and structure and even introduced a new helicopter, but always remained steadfast to Norfolk, Virginia.

The tens of thousands of Sailors who called HM-14 home have served the community well, and many have permanently called Hampton Roads, Virginia, home. The final sailors of HM-14 have finished strong over the last few years, winning the Battle “E” award in both 2020 and 2021.

“There is no greater honor than serving our fellow citizens of the USA, and doing it maintaining and flying the world’s biggest and most powerful helicopter,” said the final Commanding Officer of HM-14, Cmdr. Nicklaus “Cheddar Bob” Smith. “We have so much fun doing what we do and playing a small part in maintaining freedom in America and around the world. I’m so proud of all the sailors of the Vanguard, both past and present, who have served with distinction. Our alumni have attained MCPON [Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy] and Admiral, but I’m most proud of the young men and women who gave blood, sweat and tears, in challenging environments across the world, and kept the Big Iron flying.”

From Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic.