Commander Christopher H. Herr, U.S. Navy, took to the skies last Sunday to pass command of the Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 70 (HSM-70) to his successor, Commander Matt Schnappauf. The change of command ceremony was held at sea on the deck of the supercarrier U.S.S. George H.W. Bush, in the Naval Air Station Jacksonville operations area, and many miles as the crow flies from Martha’s Vineyard, where Cdr. Herr grew up.
Captain Daniel Cheever, carrier air wing 8 commander, read the order to the new commander, as Cdr. Herr and another pilot lifted off in two Spartan MH-60 helicopters. They flew about a mile away, and with permission for a fly-by granted, accelerated to position the helicopters alongside the carrier.
As Cdr. Schnappauf took command, Cdr. Herr made a climbing right turn in his helicopter and headed towards home at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, to signify the change.
Prior to the ceremony, Capt. Cheever presented Cdr. Herr with a meritorious service medal. He thanked his fellow Spartans for their support over the years. The change of command ceremony marked the end of Cdr. Herr’s assignment to the HSM-70, which began when he reported for duty as the squadron’s executive officer in June 2011. He assumed command of the HSM-70 in September 2012.
As for his next assignment, Cdr. Herr said he will serve as the Helicopter Commander Detailer at the Bureau of Naval Personnel, in response to questions emailed from The Times.
When asked what he considers the highlights of his career at HSM-70, Cdr. Herr wrote, “Deploying to the Middle East in support of the war on terror, winning the Battle E award for 2012, and working with the sailors at the squadron.”
The Battle E (Effectiveness) Award is awarded annually to a small number of U.S. Navy ships, submarines, aviation, and other units that win their battle effectiveness competition by demonstrating the highest level of readiness over a year-long evaluation.
With that in mind, Cdr. Herr offered some words of wisdom to those he leaves behind in the HSM-70 ranks: “Build upon the success we’ve had and get better every day.” He also gave special thanks to his wife, Margaret, and daughters, Isabel and Anne, for their “phenomenal support” over the years.
Cdr. Herr was born on Martha’s Vineyard in 1972. He grew up in West Tisbury, where he attended elementary and junior high school. He graduated from Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in 1990. His parents are Pat and Doug Herr of Edgartown.
Cdr. Herr graduated from Boston College in 1995 with a B.A. Degree and earned his wings as a naval aviator in December 1997. After completing UH-3H fleet replacement pilot training, he reported to the Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 51 at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan. He was assigned to Detachment 11 as operations and Squadron UH-3H NATOPS officer and served on board the U.S.S. Blue Ridge.
After transitioning to the SH-60B helicopter, Commander Herr joined HSL-43, based at Naval Air Station North Island, and was deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom. He served as the detachment Operations Officer and as the squadron’s Assistant Operations Officer on board the U.S.S. Thach.
In 2004, Cdr. Herr was assigned as a flag aide to the Naval War College president. After completing his assignment he remained at the Naval War College to earn an M.A. Degree in national security and strategic studies.
Cdr. Herr returned to HSL-43 in 2006 to serve as a Detachment Two Officer in Charge aboard the U.S.S. Chung-Hoon and subsequently as the squadron maintenance officer. In October 2008 he went on to serve a tour with the Joint Staff, which is composed of personnel from all the four services and assists the Chairman and the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Cdr. Herr served as an action officer for the Deputy Directorate for Anti-terrorism and Homeland Defense.
Cdr. Herr has accumulated over 2,200 flight hours in naval aircraft. His personal awards include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal (Strike/Flight with bronze numeral one), the Navy Commendation Medal (three awards), the Navy Achievement Medal (two awards), and various unit and campaign awards.
Cdr. Herr was recognized as HSL-43’s Pilot of the Year in 2003, and as the squadron’s Officer of the Year and the Commander Helicopter Strike Maritime Wing Pacific Senior Maintenance Officer of the Year in 2008.
Asked what are the biggest changes he’s seen in the Navy over his career, Cdr. Herr said, “The technology and the quality of people in the Navy are better than ever. The Junior Officers are now smarter, more adaptable, and tech savvy than ever before.”