25-Aug-2021 Source: US Navy
The “Merlins” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3 welcomed a new commanding officer during an official change of command ceremony held on Naval Air Station North Island, August 12, 2021.
During the ceremony, presided over by Capt. Sean “Papa Roach” Rocheleau, Commodore, Helicopter Sea Combat Wing, Pacific, Cmdr. Loren “Wookie” Jacobi relieved Capt. William “Easy” Eastham as the 45th commanding officer of HSC-3.
”Skipper Eastham, we started our careers in similar circumstances to arrive at this point via very different paths,” Jacobi said while addressing Eastham during the ceremony. “It’s clear that your experience across the full spectrum of the community, team-coach mentality and servant leadership have paid huge dividends. I’m humbled to be your relief.”
Eastham, who hails from Amissville, Virginia, led the Merlins from May 2020 to August 2021. Eastham stepped into the role of HSC-3’s 44th Commanding Officer during an unprecedented time in Naval History. The spring of 2020 had marked the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the world was focused primarily on virus mitigation and treating sick patients. On July 12, 2020, an entirely separate disaster would soar into national headlines when a shipboard fire aboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), seared through 11 of the ship’s 14 decks.
When addressing the role that HSC-3 played in the firefighting efforts aboard Bonhomme Richard, Rocheleau said that the squadron was, “Accredited by the CNO as the sole resistance to the fire at times and responsible for keeping the hull off the bottom of the San Diego Bay.”
The Merlins had been the first squadron to arrive on the scene with aerial firefighting capabilities, and – alongside base and shipboard firefighters – provided around-the-clock aerial firefighting support. HSC-3 flew 110.9 flight hours with 26 flight crews to complete 1,649 water drops for a yield of 545,076 gallons water.
“Last July, we transformed our schoolhouse and our flight line into the most operational unit in the Navy and responded to a national emergency with the tragic fire onboard USS Bonhomme Richard,” said Eastham during a speech in which he thanked the Sailors of HSC-3 for their dedication. “With less than four hours’ notice, our maintenance team prepared 3 aircraft, from a Sunday standstill, to respond to the crisis. They then amazingly sustained those operations for over 57 continuous hours.”
Despite the historic year and a half due to the COVID 19 pandemic and emergent tasking, Eastham’s squadron met the highest Chief of Naval Air Training Command production goal in the history of HSC-3, sending 76 Fleet Replacement Pilots and 72 Fleet Replacement Air Crewmen to follow-on commands. In March 2021, HSC-3 reached the milestone of 325,000 flight hours without a Class “A” mishap. Following the change of command, Eastham is slated to report to Helicopter Sea Combat Wing, Pacific as Deputy Commodore. After receiving a Meritorious Service Medal from Rocheleau, Eastham addressed the nearly 700 Sailors of HSC-3 for a final time.
“To all the Sailors of HSC-3, thank you. For each of you, I am so grateful,” Eastham said while addressing the audience. “Our path forward was not always clear but I will tell you that my faith in the core grit, commitment, and integrity of the Sailors of the United States Navy has never been more resolute. It’s often said that our Sailors are our strategic advantage in the face of global competition. My faith to that end is assured and I am beyond fulfilled of who you are and your amazing accomplishments.”
Jacobi, a native of Springfield, VA, is joining the Merlins from Commander, Naval Air Forces N81 Future Manpower Requirements. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2001, earning a Bachelor of Science in Naval Architecture, and earned his Wings in January 2003. He also earned a master’s degree in Systems Engineering, specializing in unmanned combat systems from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.
“I look forward to continuing the legacy of excellence at HSC-3,” said Jacobi. “As one of the oldest squadrons in Naval Aviation, we find ourselves on the precipice of a sea change as we transition to a future of crewed and un-crewed systems working together collaboratively. HSC-3 and Naval Aviation are at the forefront of this change as we train the first generations of dual-qualified MH-60S and MQ-8 aviators while continuing to execute our core missions safely. The aviators, maintainers and administrative professionals of HSC-3 represent the highest level of technical and tactical leaders in Naval Aviation. I could not be more excited to be a part of such a compelling organization.”
Jacobi’s previous assignments include tours with Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center in Fallon, Nevada, the “Dragonwhales” of HC-8, the “Wildcards” of HSC-23, the “Golden Falcons” of HSC-12 and Secretary of the Navy Tour as Technical Operations Engineer on Amazon’s Prime Air drone delivery team in Seattle, Washington.
HSC-3 is the Navy’s West Coast MH-60S fleet replacement squadron, responsible for training pilots and aircrewmen by providing the most capable warfighters to the fleet. HSC squadrons deploy expeditionary helicopter detachments to carry out naval special warfare, search and rescue, theater security cooperation, strike coordination and reconnaissance, anti-surface warfare, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief missions.