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Helo squadron CO, CMC fired after mishaps

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Helo squadron CO, CMC fired after mishaps

The commanding officer and command master chief of a Norfolk, Va.-based helicopter squadron were fired Saturday after two mishaps in the Middle East, including one that killed two sailors.

Cmdr. Sara Santoski, skipper of Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 15, was fired for a “loss of confidence” in her ability to command, a Naval Air Force Atlantic news release said.

Santoski was fired by Capt. Paul Esposito, commander of Helicopter Sea Combat Wing Atlantic. She was the 16th CO fired this year and the second fired since Thursday. She has been reassigned to AIRLANT’s staff.

HM-15 Master Chief Petty Officer Bobby Anderson also was fired because of “unsatisfactory performance,” the release said. He was the 11th senior enlisted leader fired this year.

Both were the first CO and CMC from the rotary wing community to be fired in 2012. Capt. Todd Flannery, deputy commander of HSCWINGLANT, will serve as the squadron’s CO until a replacement is named.

The firings were because of two mishaps in a five-week span.

• On July 19, an MH-53E Sea Stallion crashed in Oman. According to a summary from the Naval Safety Center, two sailors were killed and three were injured during an “external load event.” Those are the only aviation-related fatalities in the Navy this year, according to Safety Center data.

• On Aug. 22 at Bahrain International Airport, a Sea Stallion had an engine failure on takeoff, causing a hard landing. There were no major injuries.

“Initial findings from the assessment show that Cmdr. Santoski failed to strictly enforce appropriate operational, maintenance and safety standards and that she failed to ensure a proper command climate.” AIRLANT said in the release.

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