NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – The H-53 Heavy Lift Helicopters Program Office (PMA-261) welcomed a new program manager during a change of command ceremony July 12.
Guests gathered at the Presidential Helicopters Support Facility to watch Col. Jack D. Perrin become the 17th PMA-261 program manager, relieving Col. Henry “Hank” E. Vanderborght of his duties.
Vice Adm. Dean Peters, Commander, Naval Air Systems Command, presided over the ceremony.
“Hank, over and over again you have shown extreme dedication to the [H-53] mission,” said Peters, during his remarks. “Your passion for the Marines and the H-53 tribe show so much about your character.”
In conjunction with the change of command, Vanderborght retired from the Marine Corps with 26 years of service to the country. Throughout his career, he supported the H-53 community as a pilot, engineer and program manager, including roles within PMA-261 preceding his time as its leader.
During his tenure as program manager, Vanderborght’s leadership led to the first flight of the CH-53K King Stallion, the heavy-lift replacement for the CH-53E Super Stallion. Since that first flight, six additional aircraft have started flying, and the test program has successfully transitioned from the contractor facility in West Palm Beach, Florida, to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. In March 2017, the program passed its Milestone C designation, moving the aircraft into low-rate initial production. To date, the CH-53K has logged more than 1,000 flight hours.
Also within his portfolio are the CH-53E and MH-53E Sea Dragon.
Vanderborght’s leadership was key in the standup of the CH-53E ‘reset’ program, designed to improve aircraft readiness within the fleet. Under his guidance, 18 aircraft were reintegrated back into the fleet; the program will conclude when all 142 CH-53E complete the reset effort, forecast for the 2020s.
“Each morning, as I looked in the mirror wearing this uniform, I thought ‘how cool is this’; I am so proud to be a Marine.” said Vanderborght, during his farewell speech. “Nothing I have achieved in my career was alone; my family, friends, mentors and colleagues made each milestone possible.”
Like Vanderborght, this is not Perrin’s first time in PMA-261. His time with the program began as the CH-53K helicopter lead systems engineer, then as the aircraft’s program manager during the critical design review. Perrin most recently served as the Commander, Defense Contract Management Agency Sikorsky Aircraft, leading a major field activity that covers seven operating sites in three states.
“I am proud and humbled to be here,” said Perrin. “Together we will deliver the most powerful helicopter within the department of defense while improving readiness within the heavy lift community.”
PMA-261 manages the life-cycle procurement, development, support, fielding and disposal of the entire family of H-53 helicopters.