FORT PIERCE — Two Black Hawk helicopters arrived Wednesday morning at the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum, and one will make North Hutchinson Island its permanent home for residents and visitors to enjoy.
“We’re always trying to increase our collection and keep it fresh,” said museum spokesman Rolf Snyder.
Members of the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, known as Night Stalkers, flew the Sikorsky UH-60 helicopters from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and landed at the museum in Fort Pierce about 9:30 a.m., Snyder said.
“How cool is it that they’re taking it and they’re flying it here, landing it on the lawn?” Snyder said. “That is freaking awesome. That just doesn’t happen.”
The helicopter staying on the Treasure Coast was decommissioned Wednesday so it could be taken apart and made safe for public display next week, Snyder said. The Night Stalkers are expected to return to Fort Campbell after they take the next couple of days removing the helicopter’s communications gear and classified equipment, drain its fuel, and oil and unload its guns.
Although much of the operational history of the museum’s new Black Hawk remains classified, museum officials were able to confirm it was used in the Jan. 25, 2012, Navy SEAL rescue mission of aid workers Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted from Somalia.
“After flying for 22 years, that thing has been involved with probably every major conflict,” said museum Executive Director Rick Kaiser, a retired Navy SEAL. “It’s a great bird. I’ve flown on it myself in action.”
Kaiser moved to Florida in October 2012 after 34 years in Virginia Beach, Virginia, to take the top job at the world’s only museum dedicated to Navy SEALs. He explained SEALs executive missions as part of teams, and Army aviation units play a “huge part” in special operations.
He said the new addition is the centerpiece of the museum’s $2 million redesign that includes interactive projects such as an obstacle course for kids.
“Once this is all complete, it’s going to totally transform this place into a first-class military museum,” Kaiser said. “We’re trying to change the face of this place to make it more family-oriented — more related to everyday life — rather than come here and just looking at weapons.”
The helicopter will be housed in the museum’s main exhibit hall next to the Maersk Alabama lifeboat where Capt. Richard Phillips was held hostage by Somali pirates for five days before he was rescued April 12, 2009.
“This (Black Hawk) is probably one of the most iconic pieces of equipment in the U.S. military,” Snyder said. “For the community to have this kind of a deal, it’s just amazing.”
Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/local-news/st-lucie-county/black-hawk-helicopter-arrives-at-new-home-fort-pierces-udtseal-museum_68255357