Lest We Forget: Rush and Rendernick; HC-16

By Lieutenant Commander Thomas J. Cutler, U.S. Navy (Retired), and Lieutenant Commander Rick Burgess, U.S. Navy (Retired)

With the submarine's damage barely but sufficiently under control, Lieutenant Rush turned his attention to escaping the relentless hammering from above. Rush was aware that his submarine was leaking oil profusely from the damaged fuel tanks astern and deduced that his nemesis was using the resulting oil slick as a means of tracking him, so he began maneuvering Billfish back through the slick in the direction the sub had come. Using the oil as a cover instead of a telltale path, he was able to confuse his attacker and escape the barrage that had continued for more than 12 straight hours.   

Four hours later, Rush was able to at last bring the stricken submarine to the surface. Under cover of darkness, Billfish recharged her batteries with the sub's only operable generator, effected repairs, and got under way, ending an ordeal of more than 16 hours under the most arduous of conditions. Rush was eventually awarded the Navy Cross and Rendernick the Silver Star.

—Lieutenant Commander Thomas J. Cutler, U.S. Navy (Retired)


Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 16 (HC-16) traces its origins to the Naval Air Station Pensacola (Florida) land search and rescue (SAR) unit, responsible for service to Pensacola and more that 20 outlying fields. On 22 April 1970, Helicopter Training Squadron 8 formed a CVT SAR detachment to provide rescue support for the Navy's training aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Mexico, USS Lexington (AVT-16). The CVT SAR detachment became operational on 1 June 1970 with three UH-2 Seasprite helicopters, and performed its first rescue within two hours.

On 1 April 1972, the CVT SAR detachment merged with the Land SAR detachment, becoming a department of NAS Pensacola on 8 June 1973. In September 1973, the SAR department was assigned the additional role of SAR training for the Navy and acquired HH-46A helicopters.

On 1 November the SAR department was established as Helicopter Combat Support Training Squadron (HCT-16), but was redesignated HC-16 on 20 May 1977. In addition to its SAR duties on board Lexington , the Bullfrogs assumed responsibility for development and standardization of Navy SAR procedures. UH-1N "Huey" helicopters joined the squadron in 1980, later replaced by HH-1N versions, and the squadron became the Navy's "Huey" training squadron. SH-3D Sea Kings replaced the squadron's HH-46As in 1986.

HC-16 provided SAR detachments to Lexington and to her successor, USS Forrestal (AVT-59), as well as to other carriers on occasion. In October 1993, the Bullfrogs shed their "Huey" training role to Marine Helicopter Training Squadron 303. HC-16 was disestablished as a squadron on 1 April 1994, and its personnel formed a new NAS Pensacola SAR detachment, equipped with UH-3H Sea Kings.    

—Lieutenant Commander Rick Burgess, U.S. Navy (Retired)

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