Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron EIGHTY FIVE (HSC-85) "Firehawks"
HSC-85 is a United States Navy Reserve helicopter squadron based at Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, California. HSC-85 currently flies the HH-60H Seahawk. With the deactivation of HSC-84 in March 2016 this squadron remains as the only Navy helicopter squadron dedicated to Special Operations support as a primary role. The squadron was previously designated Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron EIGHTY FIVE (HS-85) and Helicopter Combat Support Squadron EIGHTY FIVE (HC-85)
A HS-85 Sea King conducts anti-submarine warfare off the coast of San Francisco Bay, CA in the 1980s. The squadron was established as a Naval Reserve squadron on 1 July 1970 as Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Eighty Five (HS-85) "Golden Gators." It flew the Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King, later transitioning to the D and H models. In October 1994 the squadron was redesignated Helicopter Combat Support Squadron Eight Five (HC-85), it retained the nickname "Golden Gators" and traded in its Anti-Submarine H model Sea Kings for utility model UH-3H Sea Kings. In February 2006 the squadron was again redesignated, this time to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Eight Five (HSC-85). It was equipped with the MH-60S Seahawk helicopter and it operated in a utility role. At that time the squadron changed its nickname from "Golden Gators" to "High Rollers".
A HSC-85 Seahawk fast-ropes a SEAL team onto an oil platform off the coast of Long Beach, CA, circa 2011. On 8 July 2011 the squadron was retasked as a Special Operations support squadron in response to a request by United States Special Operations Command. It traded in its MH-60S Seahawks for HH-60H Combat Search and Rescue/NSW support variant helicopters and it adopted the name "Firehawks" from Helicopter Combat Support Special Squadron FIVE (HCS-5) which had been deactivated in 2006.
HCS-5 which had been established as Helicopter Attack Squadron (Light) Five (HAL-5) on 1 March 1977 and re-designated HCS-5 in October 1989 also exclusively supported Special Operations prior to its deactivation. Although the nature of the lineage between HCS-5 and HSC-85 is only through the adoption of the "Firehawk" nickname by HSC-85, many former members of HCS-5 were either already serving at HSC-85, or came to serve at HSC-85 after the squadron was re-tasked with its current Special Operations (SO) mission.
HSC-85 deployed supporting the SO mission in September 2013 and returned from the two-year deployment in late 2015.
In accordance with a 2015 Navy directive, HSC-85 was scheduled to be deactivated as a result of the Budget Control Act. However, primarily due to the efforts of Congressman Ryan Zinke, Congress directed the Navy to retain HSC-85.